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Jumblatt stresses need to protect Lebanon

  • Jumblatt told Hollande no Lebanese party could defeat another in the country’s upcoming polls.

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said he highlighted the importance of protecting Lebanon from the repercussions of Syria’s unrest and stressed the need to maintain a distance from the Syrian conflict to French President Francois Hollande Monday.

Speaking to reporters after holding talks with Hollande in Paris, Jumblatt said he delivered a message that stressed the importance of stability and dialogue to French authorities as well as ensuring that Syria’s crisis does not spill over into Lebanon.

The PSP leader said that no Lebanese group could defeat the other in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

“Any [political] group will be mistaken if it thinks that it could defeat the other in the elections,” Jumblatt said.

Separately, President Michel Sleiman reaffirmed his support for the current policy of disassociation Monday. He told visitors at Baabda Palace that by distancing itself from the current conflict in Syria, Lebanon is not taking sides and has not supported any faction in the conflict.

“We have not attended meetings with the supporters of President Assad or his opponents,” he added. He also told his visitors that the Lebanese Army has clear instructions to detain any armed person crossing the border in or out of Syria and that there is no need for the establishment of a buffer zone.

The government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati has adopted a policy of disassociating itself from developments in Syria. The Syrian crisis has further divided political groups in the country and over 200,000 Syrians and Palestinians fleeing violence in Syria are now in Lebanon.

The Cabinet has devised a plan to meet the needs of refugees and is placing hope on a donor conference that will convene Wednesday in Kuwait to raise funds to support Lebanon.

Mikati said Monday he was optimistic that the donor conference would raise the funds required, adding that it is also important to discuss the social and security aspects of the Syrian refugees’ presence in Lebanon.

“On the social level, the interaction between refugees and Lebanese citizens may lead to further problems in the future,” Mikati told members of the honorary diplomatic corps that visited him at the Grand Serail.

Meanwhile, Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour said that Valerie Amos, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, has informed him that the U.N. is making efforts to support Lebanon at the Kuwait conference.

He made his remarks to reporters after meeting Amos along with U.N. Resident Coordinator for Lebanon Robert Watkins and the UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon, Ninette Kelley, at the Social Affairs Ministry.

“The U.N. Secretary-General is contacting more than one donor at the Arab and international level, either directly or through representatives to help the Lebanese government get assistance [during the conference],” he said.

Abu Faour said an agreement would soon be signed between the Higher Relief Committee, World Food Program and the International Immigration Organization to provide aid to Lebanese refugees from Syria.

Earlier, Abu Faour said he agreed with the patriarch of Syriac Catholics, Ignatius Joseph III Younan, on a mechanism to address the suffering of Christian refugees from Syria.

“The first thing that we are discussing with the patriarch is that the Social Affairs Ministry tasks a special team with providing relief and assistance for Christian refugees, particularly registering them in schools and providing shelter,” he said.

Abu Faour acknowledged that the state is not providing sufficient aid for Syrian Christian refugees.

“Some [of them] did not register their names with the Lebanese state or the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, but this does not justify negligence towards them,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 29, 2013, on page 3.
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