Lebanese president calls probe into Beirut blast 'complex'

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FILE - In this Aug. 8, 2020 file photo, French criminal police officers work on the site of this week's massive explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon For many Lebanese, their greatest hope for credible answers about the blast that wrecked much of their capital lies with outsiders. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

BEIRUT – Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the probe into this month's devastating blast in Beirut is “very complex” and would not be finished quickly.

Responding to calls that he step down, Aoun told French TV station BFMTV that it would be "impossible" because it would create a power vacuum. The interview, his first with foreign media since the Aug. 4 blast, aired late Saturday.

The cause of the fire that ignited nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at Beirut’s port remains unclear. Documents have emerged showing that the country’s top leadership, including Aoun, and security officials were aware of the chemicals that had been stored there for years.

The blast killed 180 people and wounded more than 6,000. At least 30 people are still missing.

Aoun said the probe is divided into three parts. The first aims to determine the circumstances surrounding the cargo, the second where it came from and who shipped it and the third to find who was responsible for handling and securing it.

“We had the determination to reach conclusions quickly, but we found out that the issues are very complex and require time,” said Aoun.

When asked about what measures he took when he learned of the explosives in July, Aoun said the information came to him “very late,” but his military adviser was reassured that those with direct responsibility were handling the matter.

“They all were informed,” Aoun said, adding that he made sure those who could take measures to secure the area were in the loop.