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International donors say aid to Lebanon should come with reform

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French President Emmanuel Macron, right, speaks with a woman as he visits the Gemayzeh neighborhood, which suffered extensive damage from the explosion in Beirut.
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, speaks with a woman as he visits the Gemayzeh neighborhood, which suffered extensive damage from the explosion in Beirut.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Bilal Hussein
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International leaders met to discuss aid for Lebanon at a donor conference organised by French President Emmanuel Macron and the United Nations and indicated that aid given to the country should come with reforms.

The conference sought to support the Middle Eastern country following an explosion in the capital city, Beirut, that killed 158 people.

"The objective of this conference is for us to unite today to definitively pool our resources in the coming days and weeks to address the needs of Beirut's population," said Emmanuel Macron as the donor conference began on Sunday.

International donors said after the conference that aid would need to come with reforms called for by protesters.

The Elysée confirmed to AFP that donors raised a total of €250 million to support Lebanon.

The European Commission said in a statement that it would donate an additional €30 million on top of the €33 million already pledged to the country.

The funding will go to international organisations and NGOs and be "strictly monitored," the bloc said in a statement.

Many Lebanese have been encouraging international donors to contribute to non-profit organisations working directly with the people, concerned that international funding will be lost in a country known for corruption.

Lebanon ranks 137 out of 198 countries on Transparency International's corruption perceptions index.

In addition to damaging nearly half of the city and injuring thousands, the explosion which occurred on August 4 came during the worst recession on record in the country of more than six million.

The currency has plummeted by 80 per cent and the International Monetary Fund had warned before the explosion that the central bank had incurred losses worth tens of billions of euros.

"We all know that this tragedy struck a country which has been going through a very deep political and economic crisis for several months which has continued to worsen," Macron told international leaders.

"The explosion of August 4 sounded like a clap of thunder," he added, explaining that he had spoken with Lebanese leaders about the need to reform the country and tackle corruption.

Angry population protests corruption and negligence

Violent protests broke out following the explosion that many Lebanese people blame on government negligence.

Officials have said that the explosion was in part caused by the ignition of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been sitting in Beirut's port for years.

Protesters clashed with security forces and managed to break into several government buildings and an association of banks.

Emmanuel Macron said the international community should stand for "a credible independent impartial investigation into the causes of the August 4 disaster."

He said it was a "strong and legitimate demand from the Lebanese people". Lebanese officials have said that an international investigation is not necessary.

The very public involvement of the French president in organising aid for Lebanon has drawn some criticism, recalling France's colonial history when Lebanon was a protectorate.

A surprising petition even emerged asking that the country be placed under French mandate for ten years. It garnered 60,000 signatures but has since been closed.