Lebanon’s prime minister has announced his resignation after more than a third of ministers quit their posts following the Beirut port explosion.
In a televised address on Tuesday morning (Australian time), Hassan Diab blamed last week’s disaster on endemic corruption in politics.
He formally informed the president, Michael Aoun, that he would be stepping down after just nine months in the top job.
“I said that corruption is rooted in every part of the state,” Mr Diab said. said. “But I found out that corruption is greater than the state.”
His resignation comes after the justice minister, information minister, environment minister and several MPs all quit after tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to call for the downfall of the ruling class.
Mr Diab made the announcement after a meeting of his cabinet, formed in January with the backing of the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies.
“A political class is using all their dirty tricks to prevent real change. The more we tried to get to them, the bigger the walls became,” Mr Diab said.
The August 4 detonation at a port warehouse of more than 2000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed at least 163 people and injured more than 6000.
It destroyed swathes of the Mediterranean capital, compounding months of political and economic meltdown.
Mr Diab said he would request early parliamentary elections.
Demonstrations broke out again in central Beirut, with some protesters hurling rocks at security forces guarding an entrance leading to the parliament building, who responded with tear gas.
For many ordinary Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance.
They have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.
Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni, a key negotiator with the IMF over a rescue plan to help Lebanon exit a financial crisis, was set to resign, a source close to him said.
Lebanon’s president had previously said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port.
He later said the investigation would consider whether the cause was external interference as well as negligence or an accident.
The Lebanese army said on Monday another five bodies were pulled from the rubble, raising the death toll to 163. Search and rescue operations continued.
The cabinet decided to refer the investigation of the blast to the judicial council, the highest legal authority whose rulings cannot be appealed, a ministerial source and state news agency NNA said.
Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level unaccountability.
An international donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($A416 million) for immediate humanitarian relief but foreign countries are demanding transparency over how the aid is used.