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Mikati tells Clinton: Lebanese in accord to maintain stability

Clinton thanked the Lebanese government for taking security measures to protect the U.S. Embassy and Americans.

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday that rival Lebanese parties were in agreement to maintain stability in Lebanon and insulate it from the repercussions of the bloody conflict in Syria.For her part, Clinton praised the Lebanese government’s efforts to maintain stability and apply laws.

She thanked the government for taking security measures to protect the U.S. Embassy and American citizens in Lebanon during the wave of violent protests that swept Muslim and Arab countries over a film deemed insulting to Islam and the Prophet Mohammad.

Mikati, currently in New York to head Lebanon’s delegation for the 67th General Assembly session, met Clinton at the U.N. headquarters.

The 40-minute meeting, attended by delegations from both sides, was followed by bilateral talks between Mikati and Clinton, according to a statement released by the premier’s media office.

Mikati thanked Clinton for U.S. support to spare Lebanon the reverberations of the region’s problems.

Citing the “Baabda Declaration” reached by rival leaders after a National Dialogue session in June, Mikati said: “The various Lebanese parties are in agreement on maintaining stability in Lebanon and insulating it from the repercussions of the ongoing events around it.”

He stressed the significance of the international community showing understanding toward the Lebanese government’s policy to disassociate Lebanon from the developments of the 18-month-old uprising in Syria.

According to the “Baabda Declaration,” the March 8 and March 14 parties agreed to distance Lebanon from regional conflicts.

During the meeting with Clinton, Mikati underlined the significance of bolstering and supporting the Army at all levels.

Mikati said that Israel continued to violate Lebanon’s sovereignty by air, sea and land. He called for intensified pressure on Israel to make it halt its daily violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Clinton praised the role of the Lebanese government and the Army in preserving stability, also thanking the Lebanon for condemning the attacks on U.S. embassies in some countries in protest of the anti-Islam film.

Clinton urged the government to find a quick solution for the dispute with Israel over Lebanon’s territorial waters and begin the exploration of its natural resources. Earlier Tuesday, Mikati dismissed fears of a possible delay in next year’s parliamentary polls. “Lebanon has always been a land of democracy and elections. Is it logical that amid the Arab Spring movements [the country will] refrain from holding elections?” he said. “I don’t see any justification for delaying elections.”

Mikati said Hezbollah had been conscientious with regards to a possible conflict between Iran and Israel and ruled out an imminent solution to the Syrian crisis.

Asked about fears of Israel launching a strike against Iran and the possibility of Hezbollah intervening, Mikati said: “Hezbollah’s behavior in the last period has been very wise ... I hope that the conviction among Lebanese not to fight any battle on behalf of others is strong.”

Mikati was expected to deliver a speech at the General Assembly in which he will likely reiterate Lebanon’s dissociation policy toward developments in Syria and call on the international community to offer aid to tens of thousands of displaced Syrians who were forced to flee the fighting in their home country.

The premier defended his government’s disassociation policy, saying it was essential given the divisions in Lebanon over the Syria crisis. “We seek to distance Lebanon from the repercussions of the Syrian conflict,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 26, 2012, on page 1.

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