Lebanon News

U.N. envoy to Lebanon welcomes talks on electoral laws

U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly speaks in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: U.N. Special Coordinator to Lebanon Derek Plumbly praised Friday the resumption of talks on an electoral law to govern the upcoming elections and stressed the need to safeguard the “rich diversity and coexistence” in the country.

“I welcomed the resumption of active discussions on the electoral law and the Patriarch’s support for this political process and its success and the importance of holding the elections on time in line with Lebanon’s constitutional requirements,” Plumbly said after talks with Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai.

“It is important that Lebanon remain a model for democracy and for a genuine and vital political life in the region,” he told reporters at Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite Church, according to his press office.

Rival lawmakers have resumed talks on a new electoral proposal but failed so far to break the deadlock over which legislation to govern the elections due in June of this year.

The Orthodox proposal, which enjoys support of the majority of Christian figures, has been rejected by President Michel Sleiman, the Future Movement, MP Walid Jumblatt and some March 14 coalition Christians MPs.

Those opposing the Orthodox Gathering law argue that it deepens the sectarian divide in the country and allows for the rise of extremists in the country.

According to a statement from Plumbly’s office, the U.N. official said he also discussed with Rai the situation of Christian communities in the Middle East.

“I underlined the important role the Christians play and the need to protect the rich diversity and coexistence that characterizes Lebanon in particular,” he said.

The two also spoke about the crisis in Syria that has forced some 500,000 people to flee the violence.

“We discussed the subject of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, one which concerns all of us and the partnership between the United Nations and the Lebanese government and people in supporting the refugees and addressing the issue,” he said.

“I discussed the same subject earlier this morning with the prime minister. It is an issue of the highest priority for the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] who will be attending and chairing a meeting in that regard with donor countries in Kuwait at the end of this month,” he added.

Kuwait will host a U.N.-backed conference in its capital on Jan. 30 to assess the situation of refugees and garner necessary funds for host countries, particularly Lebanon.

The government has asked donor countries to support its plan that allocates $180 million annually to over 200,000 refugees currently residing in 700 municipalities and locations.





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