French president arrives in Beirut amid tight security

June 7th, 2008 - 4:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Beirut, June 7 (DPA) French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived Saturday in Lebanon on his first official visit to the country amid tight security. Sarkozy was greeted by his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman, House Speaker Nabih Berri and Premier Fouad Seniora and high ranking officials.

“I am happy to be in Beirut. I came to congratulate President Suleiman and to tell him that Lebanon backs his election and support all factions in Lebanon,” Sarkozy said on his arrival at Beirut Airport, adding, “The French-Lebanese are more consolidated than ever.”

He praised the Doha agreement that ended the political deadlock in Lebanon and called for dialogue among all the Lebanese.

“France along with European community will back Lebanon in all aspects,” Sarkozy said.

According to a source at the French embassy in Beirut, Sarkozy will not be able to visit French troops working with the United Nations Interim Forces in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL).

“Due to the president’s tight schedule the French Defence Minister Herve Morin will visit the troops in southern Lebanon,” the source confirmed.

Sarkozy is to hold talks with Suleiman and other senior government officials, the Lebanese presidential palace said in a statement.

Sarkozy was quoted earlier as saying: “A new page may be opening in relations between France and Syria,” but stressed that Paris would not back down on the international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. apply to everybody.”

Sarkozy’s main goal Saturday was to bring support and a “message of unity” to a country emerging from a long period of crisis that could have turned into “catastrophe”, according to the French presidential office.

Sarkozy is accompanied by Prime Minister Francois Fillon and a high-ranking delegation that represents all the political parties in France.

Tight security measures were adopted by the Lebanese army on the road to Beirut International Airport and roads leading to the Lebanese presidential palace, east of the capital.

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