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US top diplomat, others meet in Paris to support Lebanese PM

US top diplomat, others meet in Paris to support Lebanese PM

Paris: Lebanon's prime minister appealed for support for his country from world powers on Friday at a summit convened by France to bolster Lebanon's institutions as it emerges from a bizarre political crisis with regional and international implications.

Just before the gathering got underway, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed America's backing for Lebanon's "sovereignty, stability and independence," while French President Emmanuel Macron called on Mideast countries to refrain from interfering in Lebanese domestic affairs.
Lebanon has in recent years attracted considerable attention as world nations sought to keep the tiny Mediterranean country stable amid a Mideast region swirling in wars and conflict. Lebanese leaders say their country has earned the support on account of the burden of hosting Syrian refugees, 1 million of them, according to the United Nations, or close to a quarter of Lebanon's own population.
"The stability of Lebanon necessarily depends on its capacity to cope with the economic and social challenges stemming essentially from the Syria crisis," Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in opening remarks at the summit in Paris.
He called for investment in Lebanon, support for its security services, and a resolution to the refugee question that has dominated domestic politics since 2012. It is the first major gathering of key nations to discuss Lebanon's future since a crisis erupted following Hariri's shock resignation last month while in Saudi Arabia.
The move appeared orchestrated by the Gulf kingdom as a message to its regional opponent Iran to reign in its Lebanese proxy, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
Hariri, who is backed by Saudi Arabia, threw Lebanon into turmoil with his resignation and renewed a vigorous debate over foreign interference in Lebanese internal politics.
Lebanon's political parties depend on considerable support from regional powers for funds, security, and influence.
Hariri officially rescinded his resignation this week, saying Lebanon's political parties had reached an agreement to distance the country from regional conflicts, such as the war next door in Syria.
While the crisis was unfolding, French President Emmanuel Macron led diplomatic efforts to restore Hariri to his post and convince him to stay on as prime minister.

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