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Lebanon News

Terrorism, presidential election to top Support Group agenda

Prime Minister Tammam Salam heads a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

A year after the formation of the International Support Group for Lebanon and following three conferences in New York, Rome and Paris, there are no tangible results.

Lebanon has not received even a small amount of the $7 billion it was supposedly allocated as its socio-economic woes grow as a result of the influx of more than 1 million Syrian refugees.

Political sources said that the government of Tammam Salam has directed its efforts toward activating the support group, with Salam’s advisers increasing their contacts with the member states in order to hold a meeting for the group on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York Sept. 20.

Salam will personally head the Lebanese delegation, which will include ministers and administrative figures.

Their efforts have not been in vain, as a Lebanese representative, probably Salam, has been invited by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to give a brief speech Sept. 26 before the Security Council, the European Union, the Arab League and the Support Group for Lebanon. The speech will focus on the need to assist Lebanon with the refugee burden and expedite aid to its security and military forces.

The Daily Star has learned that the fourth conference of the International Support Group will be held at the end of October in Germany after the third conference was held in Italy in June, when member states agreed on the need to provide military support to the Lebanese Army.

The U.S. is also reportedly keen for the group to be properly activated, considering the level of international support for Lebanon, particularly from Washington, according to recent statements by the American Embassy in Beirut.

As for the upcoming meeting in New York, two items will dominate the agenda: terrorism, particularly the spread of extremist groups in Lebanon through Arsal, and the stalled presidential election.

The meeting will address ways to strengthen the political and constitutional bodies, as well as their place in the daily life of the country by respecting elections and their mechanisms.

Participants are expected to emphasize the importance of electing a president that represents the widest possible section of society and ensures the implementation of the Lebanese Constitution and the Taif Accord, and who commits to the Baabda Declaration to keep Lebanon neutral with regard to regional and international conflicts.

The March 14 coalition has been agitating for the presidential issue to be pushed forward as they consider it the key to saving the country. March 14 is not counting on the cooperation of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, who is unlikely to back down. But sources said they expect that Hezbollah and Speaker Nabih Berri will find themselves embarrassed when it becomes clear that they are using Aoun as an obstruction as they wait for the green light from Iran to move forward.

Meanwhile, France is reportedly in contact with officials in Arab and Western capitals in preparation for a conference to be held on its soil dedicated to combating terrorism. Paris will reportedly host Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, a major player in the nuclear negotiations. The French are seeking to boost intelligence cooperation to fight terrorism and extremism.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 05, 2014, on page 2.

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