BEIRUT: Lebanon will no longer provide protection for any other state, President Michel Sleiman said during a trip to Uruguay, appealing to expatriates to preserve their land in their home country.
“We will no longer allow Lebanon to become a platform to send messages to anyone or a place to protect any regime or state except Lebanon and Lebanon only,” Sleiman told a gathering of the Lebanese community in the South American country, according to his press office Sunday.
“Lebanon has paid a high price for its freedom and democracy and you were the first to pay such a price after your parents and grandparents emigrated looking for freedom and decent living,” he said.
He also praised the "Baabda Declaration" agreed to by the country's political leaders to distance Lebanon from regional conflicts, especially the crisis in neighboring Syria.
Sleiman is on an official visit to Uruguay and has met with a number of expatriates during his visits to the Lebanese Club and the Lebanese Association in Montevideo. The president also visited Lady of Lebanon Church which is considered the only historical Maronite Catholic center in Uruguay.
During his speech at Radisson Hotel, Sleiman also encouraged Lebanese living abroad not to abandon their land in their home country as he spoke about the country’s achievements over the past several years.
“I advise Lebanon's youth not to despair or have weak faith in their nation, but meet expatriate youth and see how attached they are to their country,” Sleiman said.
“Keep your devotion to Uruguay but keep your loyalty to Lebanon. Most important is for you to preserve your land in Lebanon and reserve a place for yourself there before someone takes your place,” the president added.
Sleiman, who also visited Argentina and Peru during his Latin American tour, recounted the Army’s achievements in restoring peace and eliminating terror groups including Fatah al-Islam during the 2007 clashes in the Palestinian camp of Nahr al-Bared.
He also said that the government will next week approve the funds to finance the mechanism aimed at allowing expatriates to vote via their respective embassies and consulates for the 2013 parliamentary elections.
Sleiman praised Lebanon's financial and economic situation given regional turmoil and the overall global economic crisis.
“Lebanon achieved economic growth in the previous period which reached around 8 percent but dropped this year due to the situation in some Arab countries,” he said.
“Foreign currency reserves are very good about $32 billion in the Central Bank and gold reserves stood at $17 billion while bank deposits have exceeded $120 billion and remittances constitute $7 billion annually,” Sleiman said.