Lebanon support group to meet in Paris on March 5

Thursday 20 Feb 2014

The International Support Group helping Lebanon as it struggles with the effects of the war in neighbouring Syria will meet in Paris next month, France's foreign minister said Thursday.

In a letter to his newly named Lebanese counterpart, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the next meeting of the grouping would take place on March 5.

"It is more necessary than ever to protect Lebanon from the repercussions of the Syrian crisis, on the security, political and economic fronts," Fabius said in the letter to Gebran Bassil.

"It is in this spirit that the International Support Group for Lebanon will meet on March 5 in Paris."

The group was set up last year to help Lebanon deal with the implications of the brutal war in Syria that began in March 2011.

It is intended to provide financial, political and security support to the small nation.

Lebanon is hosting more than 930,000 registered Syrian refugees, although the real number is thought to be much higher, straining the limited resources of the nation of just four million residents.

The conflict has also inflamed sectarian tensions, with the powerful Shiite Hezbollah movement sending fighters to bolster Syria's regime against a Sunni-led uprising many Sunni Lebanese support.

A string of car and suicide bomb attacks have targeted Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in recent months, killing dozens of civilians.

Syria maintained a military presence in Lebanon for nearly 30 years, after intervening during the country's 1975-1990 civil war, and withdraw in 2005 after protests following the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

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