BEIRUT (Reuters) – Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that his group would wait for the results of an investigation into the explosion in the port of Beirut, but if it turns out to be an act of sabotage by Israel, it would “pay an equal price” .
The leader of the powerful Iran-backed Shia Muslim group said in a televised speech that the two theories being investigated were that either an accident due to negligence or sabotage caused an explosion of stored ammonium nitrate.
Israel has denied any involvement in the August 4 blast that killed 172 people, injured 6,000, injured shards in the city and left 300,000 homeless.
The Lebanese president has said investigators are investigating negligence, an accident or “external interference”
Nasrallah said that among the sabotage possibilities was a deliberate fire or planting of a small bomb.
“Who can be behind an act of sabotage? “It could be this side or so, and it could be Israel, which no one can deny,” he said.
Hezbollah was waiting for the results of the Lebanese probe and if it found “this was a terrorist sabotage operation, and that Israel had a role, not only Hezbollah will respond. The entire Lebanese state … must respond, he said. “Israel will pay a price for the magnitude of the crime if it committed it.”
Hezbollah, which exercises control over the Lebanese government, has fought many wars with Israel.
Lebanon prosecutors have pressed charges against 25 people, including high ports and customs officials, a legal source said on Friday.
Nasrallah spoke shortly after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said in Beirut that the international community should help Lebanon rather than impose its will on the country.
“It is not humane to exploit the pain and suffering of the people for political purposes,” Zarif said, adding that Lebanon should decide on its future.
International humanitarian aid has flowed in, but foreign states have linked financial support to the reform of the Lebanese state, which has run out of its huge national debt.
Iran is seen as a major player in Lebanon by supporting, arming and financing Hezbollah, which was established by the Revolutionary Guards in 1982. The movement is classified by the United States as a terrorist group.
Iran’s role has led to the United States’ allied Arab states being abolished in recent years from providing financial support to Lebanon.
Zarif met with President Michel Aoun, who also met on Friday with US and French officials in a diplomatic effort that has focused on calling on Lebanon to fight corruption and implement long-delayed reforms to lock in foreign financial support to resolve the worst economic crisis in its history.
David Hale, who visited the US Secretary of State for Political Affairs, said that Lebanon must eradicate corruption, implement financial reforms, establish state control over ports and borders, and rebuild the power sector.
French Defense Minister Floris Parly called for the formation of a government that can make “brave decisions”.
The Lebanese had staged angry protests against their leaders that they blamed for Lebanon’s many misery even before the blast, blaming officials for more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored for several years without security measures.
The explosion sharpened anger against the authorities.
“We can not live like this. The West must press our leaders to save us, says Iyaam Ghanem, a pharmacist in Beirut.
Victims and their representatives told reporters that only an independent probe would provide justice and appealed to the UN Security Council for an international inquiry.
“Is it acceptable for people to think that their homes have been destroyed, their families killed, their hopes and their dreams killed, without justice?” asked Paul Najjar, whose three-year-old daughter Alexandra died in the blast.
Reporting by Ellen Francis, Laila Bassam and Ghaida Ghantous; Writing by Samia Nakhoul; editing by Grant McCool