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French president arrives in Lebanon to offer his support for peace efforts

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, right, shakes hands with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, upon his arrival at Rafik Hariri International Ai...

Mideast Lebanon France

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, right, shakes hands with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, upon his arrival at Rafik Hariri International Ai...

French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged strong support for Lebanon's new president and the country's peace efforts shortly after he arrived yesterday at the head of a large delegation for a one-day visit.
Sarkozy is the first Western head of state to meet Lebanese President Michel Suleiman since the former army chief was elected as compromise president on May 25. The election was part of an agreement signed in Qatar last month to end an 18-month political crisis that had pushed Lebanon to the brink of civil war.
Sarkozy arrived from Athens and was received at Beirut airport by Suleiman, Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. His office has described the visit as an "unprecedented" effort to show French support for the Lebanese people.
The French president was accompanied by Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, but the three arrived in separate planes apparently for security reasons. He is also accompanied by the heads of all France's main political parties.
Lebanese army cannons fired 21 shots to salute Sarkozy as he descended from the plane to a red carpet welcome. A brass band played the Lebanese and French national anthems.
In brief comments at the airport, Sarkozy said Suleiman's election was "a synonym for hope" for all the Lebanese and called on leaders to follow through on commitments made in Qatar. He also pledged French and European support.
"Mr. President, dear Michel, you know you can count on the engagement of France, political engagement and economic engagement," Sarkozy said.
"President Suleiman has a big responsibility to achieve national reconciliation," he added.
Outside the airport, about three dozen people gathered for a sit-in to demand the release of a Lebanese citizen serving a life sentence in France. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah was convicted in 1987 of complicity in the 1982 killings in France of a U.S. and an Israeli diplomat and in the attempted murder of another American diplomat.


Updated : 2021-08-04 21:56 GMT+08:00