Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today spoke in the opening session of the summit of French-speaking countries and regions in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. Hariri addressed the summit as saying the Francophone world has a vital role to play as a peace-maker in world conflicts. He told some 2,000 delegates from 48 members gathered in the conference through a firm support for the United Nations and through strengthening preventive diplomacy, the community of French-speaking states could be able to avoid or ease conflicts or put an end to them. Hariri urged participants to work topromote democratic values, safeguard human rights and respect the rights of the minorities adding Francophone countries press for conciliation and rapprochement. However, Hariri warned that it was not enough to just apply such principles within the borders of the Francophone family adding those who do not respect these values have to be loudly denounced. The Lebanese premier said "that is why we say no to terrorism and yes to the liberation of territories occupied by force," adding chaos cannot be a source of prosperity and no constraints will ever make free men bend. Hariri called on all participants to back UN resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon as well as the Syrian Golan Heights. When Hariri finally launched an official invitation to members of the Francophone countries to hold the 2001 summit in Beirut, the gathering heavily applauded.
On the sidelines of the Hanoi summit, the Lebanese premier held talks with French president Jacques Chirac in the Vietnamese capital. Discussions centered on bilateral ties and regional developments. After the meeting, Hariri said talks focused on the world problems that interest France and Lebanon. Chirac expressed French concern for the recent developments in the region adding the situation in the Middle East is extremely grave. Chirac also supported Hariri's idea of hosting the Francophone summit of the year 2001 in Beirut.
The Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy arrived yesterday in Beirut for a 24-hour visit as part of a regional tour aimed at convincing Mideast governments to sign the global treaty banning anti-personal landmines due to be sealed in Ottawa in December. Axworthy visited President Elias Al-Hrawi this morning in the presidential palace in Baabda accompanied by the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon Daniel Marchand. Discussions focused on the stalled Mideast peace talks, economic cooperation between the two countries and bilateral political relations. Talks also covered the conditions of thousands of Lebanese families who immigrated to Canada during the war years in Lebanon. After their meeting, Axworthy said his country expected commitments made to the United Nations, the Geneva conventions and the Oslo accord to be kept. The Canadian foreign minister later held talks with parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri at his residence in Ain Al-Teeneh. Talks centered on the problems of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Canada, which presides over the working group for refugees within the Middle East multilateral peace negotiations, have opened the refugee file in the various capitals that were included in Axworthy's Mideast tour.
Axworthy said his country's primary objective is to see that there is a basic humanitarian assistance given to those refugees and that Canada was consulting with the various countries in the region possible ways to mobilize international support to the problem. The Canadian Foreign Minister also held talks with his Lebanese counterpart Faris Boueiz at Boustrous Palace. The two foreign ministers exchanged views on the international treaty banning anti-personal landmines. After the meeting,Boueiz said Lebanon would not sign the treaty before Israel ratifies the agreement. After his regional tour, the Canadian official will accompany a delegation of Canadian businessmen to the fourth Middle East and North Africa economic conference in the Qatari capital, Doha which opens on Sunday before heading for Turkey on Monday. Axworthy has already visited Egypt, Israel and Jordan and the Palestinian self-rule areas on his regional tour. He is due next in Syria from Lebanon.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jacques Poos whose country holds the rotating EU presidency today rejected proposals for EU economic pressure on Israel to force it to change its hard-line peace policies. After talks with Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz, Poos said the EU prefers to use friendly persuasion rather than pressure because possible EU economic pressure on Israel will trigger a negative reaction and counter pressure, adding the EU prefers to repeat at every turn the principles of the peace process, the principle of trading land for peace, and by repetition this principle begins to be understood by those to whom it is addressed. On the first leg of his Mideast tour aimed at boosting European involvement in the peace process, Poos met president Elias Al-Hrawi at Baabda and House Speaker Nabih Berri at his residence in Ain Al-Teeneh. Poos was accompanied by an EU delegation including Middle East special envoy Miguel Angel Moratinus.
The EU delegation arrived to Beirut from neighboring Syria after holding talks with top Syrian leaders.
Lebanon's central bank is seeking to encourage Lebanese pound deposits by opening swap operations on Lebanese-denominated treasury bills to the public. First deputy Central bank Governor Nasser Saidi today said that extending swap offerings for higher interest rates to the public should boost demand for the Lebanese pound and encourage a rise in the deposit rates in that currency. Governor Riad Salameh said the swap rates were in line with the central bank's policy of supporting the Lebanese pound which has come under some selling pressure in the past two months.
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