Hussein Abdallah
The Daily Star
October 30, 2008 - 8:00pm

President Michel Sleiman urged the international community on Thursday to enhance its efforts to reach just and comprehensive solutions for all Middle East conflicts.

"Such solutions should be based on international resolutions and on the Arab Peace Initiative, which was launched in Beirut in 2002 ... This initiative is clear on rejecting the naturalization of Palestinian refugees outside their homeland," Sleiman said after meeting Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in Rome.

The initiative offers normal ties between Israel and all Arab states in return for Israel's complete withdrawal from all occupied Arab land and a fair resolution of the refugees' plight.

Sleiman also stressed the need to "assist Lebanon in confronting ongoing threats, particularly working on the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 [which ended the 2006 war with Israel], and protecting Lebanon against any aggression that would target its people or infrastructure as well as helping it in facing the danger posed by terrorism."

Turning to local politics, Sleiman urged all parties to continue moving on the path of reconciliation and dialogue.

He also thanked his Italian counterpart for "Italy's continuous support for Lebanon" and expressed satisfaction at the economic cooperation between Rome and Beirut, in addition to Italy's military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces.

For his part, Napolitano told reporters that Italy would not stop its support for Lebanon and would push for the implementation of international resolutions relating to this country. He added that stability in Lebanon had witnessed remarkable progress under Sleiman.

The president, who arrived in Rome Wednesday, is scheduled to visit the Vatican on Friday.

Also Thursday, Lebanon and Egypt signed agreements covering tourism, administrative development, cultural cooperation and the exchange of workers. The agreements were signed by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmad Nazif.

Siniora arrived in Cairo late on Tuesday and was expected to extend his stay in the city to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Friday.

At a joint press conference with Nazif, Siniora said that commercial trade with Egypt would reach $700 million by the end of 2008. He added that he had asked Egyptian officials to support Lebanon both militarily and economically.

"Our Egyptian brothers have promised to provide the Lebanese Army with equipment and training ... Egypt will also provide us with gas and electrical power."

Nazif said that Egyptian gas would begin flowing to Lebanon as of January, adding that electric power generated in Egypt would reach Lebanon through Jordan and Syria.

Asked about a possible visit to Egypt by Hizbullah officials, he said that "Cairo's doors will always be open to all Lebanese factions with no exceptions."

Nazif described national dialogue in Lebanon as "a big achievement," adding that it would help enhance peace and stability in the country.

The second round of dialogue will kick off at Baabda Palace on November 5, grouping the 14 politicians who signed last May's Doha Accord. The first session was held in mid-September and was also attended by Arab League chief Amr Moussa.

Siniora held talks with Moussa in Cairo later in the day.

Also Thursday, Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea said that the Maronite League has informed him that the Marada Movement needed more time to be ready for reconciliation with the LF. Geagea said he informed league officials, who visited him at his home in Maarab, that he was awaiting "any new move toward reconciliation."

"The other side said they need more time for psychological preparations and they want to start by a media truce and we are not against that," he said.

Maronite League head Joseph Tarabay told reporters that his organization was trying its best to create a "positive atmosphere that would help in ensuring the success of intra-Christian reconciliation."

Despite Geagea's remarks, his wife, MP Sitrida Geagea, said on Thursday that the decision to reconcile did not lie with Marada leader Suleiman Franjieh. "Unfortunately, the decision is in the hands of Syria," she said.

In a separate development, an explosion was heard late Thursday at Sidon's Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. No details were available when The Daily Star went to press.


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