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Siniora urges free trade at Istanbul forum

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora urged the Arab states and Turkey on Thursday to remove trade barriers and allow easy access of goods to Middle East markets. Siniora's remarks came in a speech at the second Turkish-Arab Economic Forum in Istanbul. The event was organized by Al-Iktissad Wal Aamal group.

"Turkey represents the most important source of water for both Iraq and Syria and it also serves as a geographical link between the Middle East and Europe," Siniora said.

He said that Lebanon and the Arab states will benefit a lot from Turkey once it joins the European Union. "We have to develop free-trade agreements between us to increase the volume of trading."

The prime minister, who headed a team of ministers and businessmen to the forum, emphasized the importance of Turkish investments in the Middle East. "We should remove all legal, trade and bureaucratic barriers among the countries of the Middle East and work for economic integration," he said.

The premier talked about stages that Lebanon has passed through, beginning with the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the South.

Siniora said that Lebanon wants strong ties with its neighbor, Syria, for the benefit of both countries.

The Lebanese government is trying to mend the rift with Damascus following the withdrawal of Syrian forces from the country.

Siniora spoke about the government's economic reform program, which has yet to be approved by legislators.

"The two main objectives of the plan were to liberalize the Lebanese economy and give a bigger role to the private sector," Siniora said.

He attributed Lebanon's economic problems in the past to "unwise, ineffective and immature rule."

The prime minister said that the government is keen to reduce the public debt and create more jobs for the Lebanese people.

Beirut,06 13 2006
The Daily Star
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