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Mikati: Lebanon aiding Syrian refugees
Mikati meets with Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Mikati meets with Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
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BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati said over the weekend that Lebanon provides humanitarian support to the Syrian refugees coming in to the country, even though the Cabinet has adopted a dissociation policy toward the Syrian crisis.

“Although the Cabinet has adopted a dissociation policy toward the Syrian crisis, we have organized a campaign to help the refugees,” Mikati said Saturday at the closed session of the Francophone summit, according to a press release Sunday.

The premier also asked the Francophone society for its help in such a “humanitarian mission.”

Mikati ended his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo Sunday, during which he has headed the Lebanese delegation to the 14th Francophone Summit, the statement said.

Before leaving the capital Kinshasa, Mikati met with the President of Congo Joseph Kabila and held another meeting with Congo Prime Minister Matata Ponyo Mapon. According to the statement, the PM’s discussions addressed the conditions of the Lebanese community in Congo.

“Lebanon should be a role model for the entire world, not only through coexistence, but also through tolerance and respect of values,” Mikati said.

Mikati also held talks with Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Lebanese delegation included Deputy Prime Minister Samir Mouqbel, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas and Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun.

Mikati had urged Lebanese expatriates in Congo to register at their consulates and prepare to vote for the 2013 parliamentary elections, his press office said Saturday.

“I call on all [Lebanese] to register their names at their embassies and diplomatic missions to participate in the elections and not fail to participate in this central matter,” Mikati told a gathering of the Lebanese community in Congo late Friday.

During his speech Friday, the prime minister said his government had fulfilled its duty in preparing a mechanism for expatriates to vote.

“This registration is of great importance as we await a new electoral law from Parliament,” Mikati said, describing the expat vote as crucial.

The government has approved a voting mechanism for the millions of Lebanese living outside the country but has yet to approve the funds necessary for its implementation.

Meanwhile, March 14 coalition MP Butros Harb slammed the government for failing to do enough in terms of facilitating voting for Lebanese expatriates, referring to Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour’s remarks that only 3,000 Lebanese had so far registered to vote.

“[His remarks] represent a great scandal because it showcases the Foreign Ministry’s utter failure in launching an actual and serious awareness campaign that would urge Lebanese around the world to register to vote in the electoral process,” Harb told a gathering of Lebanese expatriates in Ohio, United States.

He also noted that Hezbollah opposes the expat vote as the party is not allowed to campaign in countries like the United States. The U.S. lists the Lebanese resistance group as a “terrorist organization.”

Harb, a staunch critic of Mikati’s government, also accused the Foreign Ministry of deliberately obstructing Lebanese expatriates from their right to vote.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 15, 2012, on page 4.
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