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Keeping the peace in Lebanon

Keeping the peace in Lebanon
By Euronews
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Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon has made his first official visit to Brussels. Lebanon has earned plaudits for their management of the country’s frontier with Syria, having prevented any deterioration in the security situation there. Euronews caught up with Mr Mikati in Brussels, for this exclusive interview.

Charles Salamé, Euronews: “Najib Mikati, Prime Minister of Lebanon, welcome to Euronews.
The European Union – which is drowning in debt and going through political changes – is still giving aid to Lebanon. How do you see that?”

Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon: “The European Union supports Arab and Mediterranean countries which are becoming democracies. I think that the EU, which helps new democracies, thinks it is useful to help Lebanon too. It is a country which historically shares the values of democracy and freedom with Europe within the framework of a real partnership.”

Charles Salamé Euronews: “The president of the European Commission, José Barroso, has said that he would like to encourage Lebanon to take steps to join the World Trade Organisation, and he would support such a move.”

Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon:
“Lebanon has so far fulfilled 80% of the criteria for joining the WTO, and we will complete the application as soon as the Lebanese parliament has adopted the 8 laws necessary to join, but it seems that these 8 laws need to be adapted according to the decisions taken by the legislative committee of the previous government.”

Charles Salamé Euronews: “President Mikati, the International Monetary Fund classes Lebanese growth as being the eighth fastest amongst the Arab countries, just after the oil-producing Gulf countries, but Lebabon’s public debt is billions of dollars. How is that?”

Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon:
“Monetary stability is very important in a country like Lebanon, where despite high public debt, the country can still borrow in dollars, with interest of 6% over 15 years. This rate isn’t even offered to all European countries, I’m certain that some of them can’t get loans at this rate over 15 years.”

Charles Salamé Euronews: “Belgium contributes to the peace keeping forces in the south of Lebanon. After your talks with Belgian leaders, what is the future for the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon?

Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon:
“I saw amongst the Belgian and European leaders, a willingness to maintain their essential contributions to the peace force in south Lebanon, despite a certain reduction in the number of soldiers from countries like France and Spain. This isn’t a withdrawal from Lebanon but a reduction due to specific economic contractions in certain countries.”

Charles Salamé, Euronews: “Have enquiries been carried out to find out who organised the attacks against the UN Interim Forces in southern Lebanon?”

Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon:
“It’s a security question to be tackled by the Lebanese authories and the UN who have information about this.”

Charles Salamé Euronews: “Will they publish them?”

Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon:
“It’s a question of national security.”

Charles Salamé Euronews: “Mr Mikati, your government contains people opposed to the Syrian regime as well those who are for it. But political commentators in Europe think that the constitution of this government has prevented the outbreak of war in the region.”

Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon:
“Lebanon has no interest in getting mixed up in the Syrian conflict but Lebanon society is divided about the events in Syria. But we do not have the capacity to change the course of events even if the majority of the Lebanese and their government is pro the Syrian regime or against it. Taking an official position would damage Lebanese society and I can’t allow that.”

Charles Salamé, Euronews: “Don’t you fear that this policy could lose its value if military intervention was taken against the Syrian regime? Aren’t you afraid of that?”

Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon:
“Our current policy is that we support the plan proposed by Kofi Anan and the protocols which have been signed. Other positions will be taken according to the results obtained by this plan.”

Charles Salamé, Euronews: “My last question, Mr Mikati, is about the role of Lebanon in the Arab world. How do see the dynamics of that?”

Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon:
“Lebanon has always been a communication bridge between all the Arab countries, but where are these countries now? Where is the Arab League? The Arab Spring brought changes which it need to stabilise now; after which Lebanon can play its part, but right now, we have to work towards maintaining the national security and unity of Lebanon.”

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