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Beirut explosion: Nasrallah rejects claims Hezbollah had arms in port

Movement's leader calls for military to conduct a transparent investigation into the blast
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gives a televised speech following Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port (Reuters)

The leader of Hezbollah denied on Friday that the group held weapons in Beirut's port that could have contributed to the enormous blast that wrecked the Lebanese capital, and called for an investigation.

"We have nothing in the port: not an arms depot, nor a missile depot nor missiles nor rifles nor bombs nor bullets nor ammonium nitrate," Hezbollah's secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, said in televised remarks.

On Tuesday, 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were ignited, setting off an explosion that has killed more than 150 and injured some 4,000 people.

Speaking for the first time since the blast, Nasrallah called for the military to conduct a transparent investigation into how the highly explosive material was left in the port and ignited.

'We have nothing in the port: not an arms depot, nor a missile depot nor missiles nor rifles nor bombs nor bullets nor ammonium nitrate'

- Hassan Nasrallah

President Michel Aoun, meanwhile, earlier said the probe should be Lebanese, not international.

Nasrallah denied Hezbollah has a presence in the port, claiming the Shia movement knows more about Israel's Haifa than the facility in Beirut.

"They wanted to blame Hezbollah for all of the death, destruction and terror caused by the explosion," said Nasrallah.

"This is unfair. Is this freedom of speech? There are those among our people, Hezbollah's people, who are martyrs of the Beirut port explosion." 

Earlier Friday, Aoun issued a statement saying authorities did not know the cause of the explosion, but were looking into the possibility that negligence, an accident, or even "external influence" could have been the cause.

"The cause has not been determined yet. There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act," Aoun said in comments carried by local media and confirmed by his office. 

Aoun pledged "swift justice" and said he viewed an international probe as an attempt to "dilute the truth".