Saniora asks Germany to help Lebanon

Merkel congratulates Lebanese PM on crushing Fatah Islam; says Syria not "constructive" in region.

September 5, 2007 22:18
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Lebanon's prime minister said Wednesday that his country's army needed support to establish itself as a real "deterrent force" and stressed the need to rebuild a Palestinian refugee camp battered in fighting with al-Qaida-inspired militants. Prime Minister Fuad Saniora met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who congratulated him on crushing the Fatah Islam militants following a three-month battle. She said Germany would see what it could do to help rebuild the Nahr el-Bared camp, close to Tripoli in northern Lebanon. "It was possible to demonstrate the authority of the Lebanese state here, and I think this was a very important moment for Lebanon," she said at a news conference. But military leaders have warned that Lebanon's war on terror is not yet over and asked the international community to help arm the country's military. "It is very important to support the Lebanese army with necessary equipment and training ... and ammunition so that it can really be a deterrent force, in the real sense of the word, to any group that may think of playing in law and order in the country," Saniora said. "It is important to rebuild the camp and to be under the authority of the Lebanese state," he added. Merkel said Berlin would discuss with its European Union partners what it can do to help improve security on Lebanon's border with Syria. "I ... appeal once again to Syria for Lebanon to be recognized and for Syria to play a constructive role, which unfortunately is not the case to the extent that we would expect," she said. While criticizing Syria, particularly for its involvement in Lebanon, Germany has also sought to draw it into solving problems in the Middle East. Last week, Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul visited Syria. Wieczorek-Zeul met with Saniora Wednesday. Her ministry said she agreed to give Lebanon another US$2.7 million to help improve conditions for Palestinian refugees - doubling German aid for that purpose. "Something has to be done in the area of infrastructure," Wieczorek-Zeul said in a statement. "Above all, water and electricity supplies are dramatically bad." Germany leads naval patrols off the Lebanese coast as a part of a UN peacekeeping mission, a deployment designed to prevent arms reaching Hizbullah guerrillas by sea.

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