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Lebanon, U.N. should help Syrian refugees

The Daily Star, May 19 2011

BEIRUT: The Lebanese government and the United Nations should provide humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees fleeing into Lebanon and escaping unrest in their home country, caretaker Labor Minister Boutros Harb said Thursday.

Harb met with U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams and both officials agreed that the U.N. should accommodate the large influx of Syrian refugees through its humanitarian organizations.

“We agreed that the Lebanese government should provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian people who are going through a security situation forcing them to leave their homes and look for peace and security in Lebanon,” Harb said following his meeting with Williams.

A large influx of Syrian refugees has fled to Lebanon following a security crackdown by Syrian security services on the town of Tal Kalakh, a town bordering Lebanon. Syria has witnessed mass protests with anti-regime demonstrators calling for reforms and an end to Baath Party rule in the tightly controlled Arab state.

The two also spoke about the recent amendment to the indictment concerning the Special Tribunal for Lebanon which was submitted by General Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare to pre-trial Judge Daniel Fransen.

“Apparently, there were new elements that were revealed in the investigation which prompted Bellemare to add them to the original indictment,” Harb said, adding that Williams expressed U.N. concerns over Lebanon’s international commitments, particularly toward the STL.

The Netherlands-based STL, established in 2007 to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has been at the heart of political tension between Lebanon’s rival March 8 and March 14 camps.

At the domestic level, Williams said that the Lebanese were clearly concerned about their economic situation which underlines the urgency to form a new government that can tackle the many issues facing Lebanon.

“I think in any country the task of politicians of the political class is to overcome obstacles. And I think the need to form a government in Lebanon is now becoming urgent,” Williams said, following the meeting.

Lebanon has been under a caretaker government for over four months after March 8 coalition ministers resigned from caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s cabinet. Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati was appointed on Jan. 25 to form a new cabinet.

However, Harb said that he did not have anything reassuring for Williams concerning the issue of forming a new cabinet.

“It was an opportunity to express our mutual concerns over the formation of the government and the unreasonable conditions which is obstructing the process of formation,” Harb said, adding that the lack of a functioning government in Lebanon was a concern for many countries in the region.

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