French premier urges Lebanon to work towards national reconciliation

Other News Materials 21 November 2008 00:21 (UTC +04:00)

Visiting French Prime Minister Francois Fillon urged Lebanon Thursday to work on the process of national reconciliation, dpa reported.

"The agreement reached in Doha among the squabbling political factions in May had put the country on a promising path," Fillon, who was on a two-day visit, said during a joint media briefing with his Lebanese counterpart.

On May 21, Qatar brokered a deal that put an end to an 18-month political crisis that brought Lebanon close to civil war.

In September, a national dialogue among the Lebanese rival factions began, with a second round held this month and more talks set for December.

The talks are aimed at resolving the differences between the opposition, which is led by the pro-Syrian Hezbollah movement, and the western-backed ruling majority headed by Saad Hariri, the son of murdered former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri.

Hariri was killed in a car bomb attack in February 2005 that sparked international outcry against neighbouring Syria and its allies in Lebanon.

Damascus denies any involvement in Hariri's murder.

Fillon said the "death of Rafik Hariri and attacks since 2004 must not go unpunished."

"National serenity and union are not distinct from a sense of justice, which is why France politically and financially supports the (United Nations) Special Tribunal for Lebanon," he added.

A UN probe has implicated senior Syrian officials in the Hariri's murder. Syria, was for three decades the power broker in Lebanon.

Fillon, who was accompanied by a large business delegation, is expected to focus on economic issues in talks with Lebanese officials.

On Thursday he announced that France would provide 125 million euros for Lebanese companies that were negatively affected in the war between Hezbollah and Israel in July 2006.

Fillon was due to travel Friday to southern Lebanon, where French troops serving with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon are stationed.

He was also due to meet with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, House Speaker Nabih Berri and officials.