David Hale, a top U.S. diplomat, travels to Beirut urging economic reforms

A top American diplomat is headed to Lebanon to express the U.S.’ condolences for the losses sustained in last week’s explosion in Beirut that killed over 150 and injured thousands more, and call for immediate financial reforms.

The State Department announced Thursday morning that Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale will travel to the country for the next several days.

Mr. Hale “will reiterate the American government’s commitment to assist the Lebanese people in recovering from the tragedy and rebuilding their lives,” the department said. He plans to meet with political leaders as well as civilians to push for economic, financial and governance reform.

Even before the explosion, top Lebanese officials warned that the country was headed down a dangerous path and seemed unable or unwilling to change course. Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned the day prior, saying the government lacked the will to address corruption, fix a broken economy and institute necessary reforms.

This week, Lebanon’s prime minister stepped down from his job amid public pressure saying he has come to the conclusion that corruption in the country is “bigger than the state.”

The country has seen rising food costs, high unemployment, civil unrest and government corruption in addition to an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, as experts warn that the tragedy has left Lebanon close to the breaking point.

During his trip, Mr. Hale “will also underscore America’s willingness to support any government that reflects the will of the people and is genuinely committed to and acting upon such a reform agenda.”

This story is based in part on wire reports.

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