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French Version

Hariri declares Paris III open to 'all Lebanese' as Siniora garners support in Egypt, Gulf

Parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri declared in the French capital Sunday that the Paris III international donor conference for Lebanon was not restricted to any particular political camp, but will be an opportunity "for all the Lebanese people.

It was a busy weekend for the March 14 Forces, with several prominent members of the ruling bloc traveling abroad to gather international support for the upcoming conference.

Hariri was in Paris Sunday to meet with the French President Jacques Chirac.

Premier Fouad Siniora visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait over the weekend to meet with the heads of state of each country as part of a regional tour ahead of the aid conference to be held January 25.

"The Paris III conference is not for the March 14 Forces or for the March 8," Hariri said after meeting with Chirac. "The conference represents the hopes of the Lebanese youth and the rights of every Lebanese citizen who wants Lebanon's economy to develop and advance."

Hariri said Chirac had once more pledged his support for Lebanon, both "politically and economically," as well as France's commitment to helping Lebanon achieve its goals during the aid conference, adding: "There is an integral Arab component to the success of Paris III, where there will be many of our Arab friends who are committed to helping Lebanon."

The donor conference is expected to be attended by several Western countries, oil-rich Arab states and international organizations that back Siniora's government and its elected parliamentary majority.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah reportedly pledged support for Siniora during the premier's meetings over the weekend.

Hariri said an initiative by the head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, aimed at diffusing the ongoing political deadlock in Lebanon was the "only one that can lead us to a solution."

Hariri and Siniora seemed to be reading from the same page, with the premier saying from Cairo Saturday the Arab League initiative was "the only serious initiative that currently exists."

"We must continue to encourage this initiative," the premier said, adding Moussa was ready to return to Lebanon to help move the plan forward, but no date had been set for a visit.

The AFP news agency said Siniora is due to meet Moussa in Cairo Tuesday. The two officials were due to hold talks in the Egyptian capital on Saturday, but the meeting was postponed due to scheduling problems.

"All Arabs are aware of the suffering the Lebanese have endured for the last 30 years and of the need for support to overcome the problems built during that long period," Siniora said, noting the devastation caused in Lebanon during the summer 2006 war with Israel.

Siniora met King Abdullah in Riyadh to discuss "efforts deployed to resolve the political crisis [and] preparations for the Paris conference," a Saudi official told AFP.

Saudi Arabia is one of Lebanon's principal sources of financial assistance. The kingdom will be represented in Paris by Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and Finance Minister Ibrahim bin Abdel-Aziz al-Assaf.

Siniora also visited Oman to meet with Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, who also expressed support for Lebanon and his commitment to participate in the conference.

Siniora was in a meeting with Kuwaiti Premier Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah as The Daily Star went to press.

Siniora is due to travel to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan in the coming days.

Meanwhile, in the latest volley in the political impasse, Speaker Nabih Berri slammed the government for "hampering all the Arab initiatives, including my own initiative."

Berri said Saturday initiatives came in three types: Lebanese, Arab and international.

"We have to go through the second one to reach the first and third," he said. "We need closer relations between Damascus and Riyadh."

Beirut 15-01-2007
The Daily Star

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