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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lebanon to France: Stop intervening

Lebanon's president launched a scathing attack on French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday, urging him to stop intervening in Lebanese domestic affairs.

President Emile Lahoud, in an interview with Radio France International (RFI), accused Chirac of being responsible for his exclusion from Wednesday's opening of the Organisation International de la Francophonie, a summit of French-speaking nations held in Bucharest, Romania.

"He has been meddling with Lebanon's domestic affairs out of belief that he is helping his Lebanese friends. This makes Chirac a party to the Lebanese conflict, because he is siding with one party against the other," Lahoud said, according to a transcript of the interview released by his office.

"His (Chirac's) move is unprecedented by a head of state and harms principles of Francophone and the historic and deep-rooted relations between Lebanon and France," he added.

Romania's decision to not invite Lahoud and instead to extend an invitation to Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora led to a diplomatic flap between Lebanon, Romania and France, which Lebanon accused of being behind the decision.

Saniora declined to take part to avoid a political crisis, sending Culture Minister Tarek Mitri instead as "his personal representative."

Romanian President Traian Basescu said Wednesday he did not invite Lahoud after a UN report on the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri raised suspicions about Lahoud's alleged involvement.

"It was a decision that I made, and I think it was correct, given the suspicions in the (UN) report about the death of the former premier Hariri," Basescu said.

Lahoud dismissed Besescu's claims and said he was excluded for personal reasons having to do with Chirac's well-known personal friendship with Hariri.

"So far, four reports have been published by the international investigation commission. None of those reports has referred to me as a suspect," Lahoud said.

"I urge ... Chirac, and with all my respect to his person, to stop interfering in Lebanon's domestic affairs," he said.

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