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Arab League chief says Lebanon should be 'spared'

AFP , Monday 20 Nov 2017
 Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit (AFP)
Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit (AFP)
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Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Monday Lebanon should be "spared" from spiralling regional tensions, during a visit to Beirut a day after Arab diplomats condemned Lebanese movement Hezbollah.

The Arab League held an extraordinary general meeting on Sunday in Cairo at the request of Saudi Arabia, which called the ministerial-level session to discuss "violations" by its rival Iran.

Despite the meeting's strongly worded concluding statement, Abul Gheit said Arab nations sought to keep Lebanon insulated from harm.

"No one can accept, or want, any harm to happen to Lebanon," Abul Gheit said after meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Baabda.

"Lebanon has a special character, a particular and special structure. The League recognises this," he told reporters.

Earlier Abul Gheit told Lebanon's National News Agency that "Arab countries understand and take into account the situation in Lebanon and want to spare it... from any dispute."

Abul Gheit also met parliament speaker Nabih Berri and will attend a conference organised by the United Nations' Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

In statements posted on Twitter, Aoun said Lebanon could not be held "responsible" for regional conflicts.

"It did not attack anyone, and it therefore shouldn't pay the price for these conflicts with its political stability or security," he said.

"Lebanon cannot accept the suggestion that its government is a partner in terrorist acts. The position that Lebanon's delegate to the Arab League took expresses a universal, national will," Aoun added.

On Sunday, Arab foreign ministers strongly criticised Lebanon's powerful Shia movement Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran.

In the meeting's concluding statement, they pledged to hold Hezbollah "responsible for supporting terrorism and terrorist organisations in Arab countries with modern weapons and ballistic missiles".

They also demanded Hezbollah stop intervening in regional conflicts and spreading extremism and sectarianism.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil did not attend the meeting, leaving permanent representative to the Arab League Antoine Azzam to represent the country.

Abul Gheit said Sunday that Lebanon's delegation had expressed reservations on the statement, "specifically on the points related to Hezbollah's role".

Lebanon has been gripped by a political crisis since Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his surprise resignation earlier this month while in Saudi Arabia, lambasting Iran and Hezbollah for destabilising his country.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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