France's Hollande arrives in Beirut for talks with Sleiman

AFP , Sunday 4 Nov 2012

France's president arrives in Beirut to hold discussions with counterpart Michel Sleiman, with Syrian crisis on topping agenda

France's President Francois Hollande disembarks from a plane upon his arrival at Beirut international airport, November 4, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

French President Francois Hollande arrived in Beirut on Sunday for a short visit during which he will hold talks with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Sleiman, an AFP reporter said.

Lebanese officials had earlier said Hollande and Sleiman would have breakfast together and then hold a press conference. The Syrian crisis is on top of the agenda.

Hollande's trip to Lebanon will be the first by a French president since the previous head of state, Nicolas Sarkozy, visited in June 2008.

The visit comes two weeks after Lebanon's opposition called on Prime Minister Najib Mikati to resign, accusing the government of complicity with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The resignation call followed a massive car bombing in central Beirut which killed three people in October, including top security official Wissam al-Hassan, in an attack the opposition blamed on Syria and its allies in Lebanon.

A French government source said the visit was "a strong political gesture of backing for Lebanon's sovereignty and the preservation of its integrity in the face of destabilisation threats."

Hollande later goes on to Jeddah for talks with King Abdullah on the international standoff on Iran's contested nuclear programme and the Syrian crisis, French officials said.

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