Beirut- Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said that security gaps in Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport are dangerous and grave and may be, according to Western reports, similar to those that were in the Sharm el-Sheikh Airport and led to the explosion of the Russian plane.
Machnouk, who was giving his statements after meeting with Britain’s International Development Secretary Justine Greening in London, stated that the Lebanese Cabinet is not taking these dangers into consideration.
Machnouk on Tuesday vowed to address security gaps at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, hours after at least 34 people were killed in ISIS-claimed attacks at the Brussels airport and a metro station.
He added that he met with Head of the Airport’s Security Brig. George Doumit, who is also in London on a training course, and gave him instructions to tighten precautionary measures at the airport and to ask various security agencies to be fully alert.
On the other hand, Machnouk added that in the coming weeks, and following consultations with PM Tammam Salam, Speaker of the Parliament of Lebanon Nabih Berri, Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil and Public Works and Transportation Minister Ghazi Zeaiter, this issue will be dealt with as a priority. He also pointed out that he has been paying attention and careful follow-up to the security situation in Beirut’s Airport for three months now.
“The only option I have is that once I return to Beirut, I ask the Finance Minister to allocate the necessary funds to hold the tenders. This should happen in agreement with the Public Works and Transportation Ministry,” Machnouk said.
The minister acknowledged that over the past 20 months, administrative obstacles had prevented awarding contracts for companies to build a fence around the airport and to buy advanced equipment to screen luggage.
According to a statement from his office, Machnouk said the response given in the Lebanese Cabinet once the issue of the airport was raised was “limited,” and that ministers did not take into account the level of dangers and their negative impact on the reputation of the Beirut airport.
Machnouk said that his talks with Greening focused on means to implement decisions taken at the Syria Donor Conference hosted by London last month, particularly pledges of aid for Lebanon.
He added that the talks also tackled the necessity for the continuation of the existing security cooperation at its highest levels with the British and with the Europeans in general, in addition to activating it. Machnouk also assured Greenings that Lebanese Security bodies are working seriously to fight terrorism.
“The only way to face terrorism is through more security cooperation and coordination between European, Arab and international bodies to confront extremism,” he said.