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Army tool to reinforce security in region: Italian FM

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, left, speaks with his Italian counterpart Federica Mogherini, right, as she leaves the Lebanese foreign ministry, in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday June 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT: The conference Italy is set to host next week aims to display international political support for the Lebanese Army - a needed tool to reinforce security in Lebanon and the region, Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Federica Mogherini said Saturday.

“The Rome conference will bring together several countries and international organizations ... to demonstrate the political and international support for the Lebanese Army as a tool for the unity for the country and to strengthen security here and in the region,” Mogherini told reporters.

Her remarks came after meeting Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil during her two-day visit to Lebanon, where she met other officials and visited a Syrian refugee camp funded by Italy.

“The conference will also offer a roadmap for future military cooperation between defense ministers,” she said, noting that the June 17 conference was not a donor one.

Mogherini said that supporting the Lebanese Army and security forces was important given the conflict raging on Lebanon’s border.

“Support for the Army is a priority for the region as well because we should make sure that the [Syrian] crisis does not have repercussions on security,” she said.

She also recognized the dire need of international aid for the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, saying her country took part in 50 projects and spent 150 million to support it.

“The international community is working on offering needed aid to address the crisis in Syria and neighboring countries such as Lebanon,” Mogherini said.

For his part, Bassil said the only guarantee for stability in Lebanon is the Army, underlining the importance of funding and arming the military.

He also said that the country should have a strong Army and a national defense strategy to address Israel’s repeated violations and aggression against its property and natural resources.

He also said a strong, capable Army was needed to combat armed groups coming from Syria and harming Lebanon’s security.

Speaking on the issue of the refugee crisis in Lebanon, Bassil said concerned parties should revive diplomatic efforts to launch dialogue between the warring factions.

"We need international support and effective help to prepare for the return of refugees to their home country

"Any financial support that the international community is delivering directly to the refugees or to international organizations is exacerbating the refugee crisis and is not helping Lebanon at all," he said.

Lebanese officials have repeatedly warned that the country can no longer bear the burden of the refugee crisis with the presence of over 1.5 million Syrians in the country.

Mogherini held separate talks with Speaker Nabih Berri, Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and Army Gen. Jean Kahwagi, focusing primarily on the upcoming conference.

 

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