|Royal says France wants 'to help Lebanon prosper'
|Visiting French Presidential candidate Segolene Royal said Thursday that she was confident France would have a major role to play "in alleviating growing tensions on the Lebanese scene.
" Visiting the country at the invitation of the family of slain Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, Royal paid condolences to former President Amin Gemayel Friday afternoon at his Sin al-Fil residence. The Socialist Party nominee later met with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Premier Fouad Siniora and other political leaders.
After meeting with Gemayel, Royal said the situation in Lebanon was "quite intricate."
"However, I am counting on the lively spirits of the Lebanese to triumph over the current problems," she said.
Royal said that France was keen on lending a helping hand to Lebanon, "which has always been a democracy pioneer, and a factor of stability in the region." She said it was the responsibility of both Lebanese and French politicians to allow children to live "in a peaceful country," and that France "would try its best to help Lebanon prosper."
Gemayel said he was confident that France would always stand by Lebanon, "like it did in 2005 when it helped the country regain its independence and sovereignty."
Royal was officially named the Socialist presidential candidate after an internal party primary in France last week.
Polls show her neck-and-neck with the conservatives' likely candidate, popular Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.
Royal was greeted at Beirut's airport Thursday afternoon by a delegation including Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, ministers Marwan Hamadeh and Ghazi Aridi and French Ambassador Bernard Emie.
She declined to comment in detail on the political situation in Lebanon, which she described as "delicate," but Royal said dialogue was needed "to solve all pending issues."
Jumblatt said Royal's visit came as part of France's "unremitting support of Lebanon's democracy and prosperity."
Responding to reports that Royal was urged to leave Beirut because of mounting political tensions, spokesman Jean-Louis Bianco said she wanted "to stay at the Lebanese people's side."
Royal is expected to visit South Lebanon to meet members of the French contingent operating as part of UNIFIL. Royal said she hoped to be "able to head to the South and express our support and gratitude to the soldiers there."
The Daily Star