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French Version

Francophone Summit calls for return to calm in Lebanon

Declaration stresses effects of war on all civilian populations

Heads of state or government from more than 30 French-speaking nations wrapped up Friday a two-day summit with a compromise on a declaration calling for a return to calm in war-torn Lebanon. Canada and Switzerland had refused an amendment proposed by Egypt that would have mentioned only Lebanese victims of Israeli attacks and not referred to Israeli victims of Hizbullah rocket attacks.

The final declaration spoke of "the dramatic consequences for all civilian populations [involved]" and called for "a complete end to hostilities and a return to calm in Lebanon." French President "Jacques Chirac resolved the problem" by suggesting the text be submitted to a vote, which made Canada accept a more general wording, Hugo Sada, spokesman for the International Francophone Organization (OIF) told AFP.

The final wording is close to UN Resolution 1701, which allowed for the reinforcement of UN peacekeepers in South Lebanon and for Israeli troops to withdraw, which they have not yet completely done.

The OIF summit had opened Thursday amid a dispute over whether the Lebanese president should have been invited.

Chirac and Romanian President Traian Basescu had on Wednesday defended the decision not to invite Emile Lahoud.

Chirac said the decision was made in the light of a UN report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri - a personal friend of his.

The UN report implicated senior officials from neighboring Syria in the killing. The pro-Syrian Lahoud is boycotted by Western nations, who do not consider him a legitimate president. His mandate was controversially extended after changes to the Lebanese Constitution pushed through Parliament by pro-Syrian MPs in September 2004. Basescu said the decision not to invite Lahoud to the Bucharest summit had been a "personal choice" and had been the right one, given the "suspicions" raised by the UN report on the death of Hariri.

But Lahoud on Thursday told French radio France-Inter that Chirac was "interfering in domestic Lebanese affairs."

"The president of Romania does what Chirac tells him to do," Lahoud complained. "President Chirac told him a few months ago not to invite me. Now he [Basescu] is looking for excuses but this is not the truth." Lebanon was represented at the summit by Culture Minister Tarek Mitri, who said he did not think the row would affect Beirut's relations with Paris, its former colonial master.

"Of course, there is the view held by President Lahoud [and] there are comments that have been made about President Lahoud. But I don't think all this will affect relations between our two countries," Mitri told a news conference in Bucharest.

"Whatever our differences ... these ties strong and our government wants it that way."

In a sideswipe at Hizbullah, Chirac said Thursday the Lebanese government should be allowed to exercise its authority "over the entire country," but added the situation in Lebanon seemed to have stabilized and he was "not at all pessimistic."

Beirut,10 02 2006
The Daily Star
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