Lebanon’s prime minister warns of ‘dangerous nuclear chemicals’ at oil facility

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s outgoing prime minister said on Friday that experts had found “dangerous chemicals” in a warehouse at the Zahrani oil facilities in the south.

Hassan Diab said the country’s atomic energy authority identified the substances as “nuclear” after reviewing a report from the German company Combi Lift, which Lebanon had commissioned to clean up hazardous materials at the Beirut port.

The comments came nearly eight months after a chemical reserve detonated in Beirut, killing nearly 200 people in one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. The ammonium nitrate caught fire after being stored unsafe in the port for years.

A Combi Lift spokesperson confirmed to Reuters that the company was in talks with Lebanon about possible recovery projects at the Tripoli and Zahrani refineries, but said there were no concrete results yet.

“We do not want to comment on possible findings,” the spokesman said.

Diab called for action, without elaborating.

But Lebanon’s oil directorate said the cans, which totaled 1.2 kg (2.7 pounds), were used for research only and would be transferred next week for safe storage.

“We assure the Lebanese … that there is no reason for any fear,” the leadership said.

Diab’s cabinet has served as an interim since he resigned over the devastation that last August’s explosion caused in much of the Lebanese capital, exacerbating an already acute financial crisis.

After Lebanon hired Combi Lift in the wake of the explosion, the German firm said it had found 58 containers in the port of Beirut that posed a threat to the city. Part of it had been there for more than a decade.

The German ambassador to Beirut, Andreas Kindl, said this month that the material was well packaged but was still waiting to be shipped to Germany for disposal, as Lebanon had yet to make a payment of nearly $ 2 million on the contract.

Combi Lift spokesman Malte Steinhoff said on Friday those containers remained in Beirut amid talks with Lebanese authorities about financing.

“We hope to find a solution this month,” he said.

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