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Lebanon polls crucial given ‘regional uncertainty’: U.K.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati(R)meets with British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher (L) at the Grand Serail in downtown, Beirut on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. (The Daily Star/DalatiNohra,HO)

BEIRUT: U.K. Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher said Wednesday the need for elections in Lebanon was particularly important given “regional uncertainty” and described the situation of the growing number of Syrian refugees as a “human catastrophe.”

“At a time of regional uncertainty, it is more important than ever to uphold the principle that citizens should be able to hold their leaders to account,” Fletcher said following talks with Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Grand Serail, according to a U.K. Embassy statement.

He said intensified efforts to “secure consensus” across the Lebanese spectrum on an electoral law were an encouraging sign.

“Time is short. But I have encountered a widespread understanding that agreement is important for the legitimacy of Lebanon's institutions, and for the upholding of Lebanon's democratic traditions,” he added.

Noting a “relative absence of international involvement” in the debate on the electoral law, the diplomat said a Lebanese-led consensus would “gain far greater legitimacy than one baked in other capitals.”

“It is our role, as we are all doing, to underline the benefits of success, the costs of drift, and the importance of a genuine dialogue that can underpin Lebanon's hard won stability,” he added.

Fletcher said he and Mikati had discussed London’s commitment to stability in Lebanon and to follow up on the recent visit by U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague “and his pledges of support to the [Lebanese] Army and the humanitarian situation.”

The U.K. official also described as a “human catastrophe” the growing number of Syrians fleeing unrest in their country and seeking refuge.

“Syria’s neighbors face a growing challenge in supporting refugees. 1m are now registered, a human catastrophe,” he said, adding: “The international community must do more to help.”

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement that the number of Syrian refugees who have fled their country and seeking assistance has topped 1 million.

Lebanon hosts over 300,000 Syrian refugees.

Fletcher said during his talks with Mikati, the prime minister confirmed Lebanon’s commitment to its dissociation policy and “informed me that there is no official assistance to any party in Syria, including fuel exports for aircraft.”

 

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