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    France responds to Lahoud, denies meddling in Lebanon's affairs

    Tuesday, February 21, 2006
    PARIS: France Monday rejected a Lebanese presidential accusation that it was working with anti-Syrian political forces in Lebanon in a bid to oust the country's embattled head of state.

    "France does not interfere in Lebanon's internal affairs," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in response to the charge, which was made by an unnamed official in the office of President Emile Lahoud.

    "Its action is aimed on the contrary at stopping foreign interference in the country and allowing the Lebanese to recover their full sovereignty and independence in line with UN resolution 1559," said the spokesman, Denis Simonneau.

    The official from Lahoud's office accused French President Jacques Chirac of personally supervising a group working with the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority to push the president out of office.

    "Chirac is personally supervising an urgent plan to oust Lahoud," wrote the Lebanese daily An-Nahar Sunday, citing sources close to the presidency.

    The official source told AFP that Chirac was personally implicated in "supervising a working group charged with coordinating ... [an action] ... to provoke a constitutional coup aiming at ousting President Lahoud before the end of his mandate on October 24, 2007." Lahoud "regrets Chirac's positions, which take a side in the conflict, instead of treating all Lebanese with equality, as France always did in its history," the official source said.

    Lahoud has been under severe pressure ever since Lebanese security officials close to him were arrested over the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and a UN probe accused his Syrian allies of involvement in the killing.

    The anti-Syrian parliamentary majority late Thursday gave the president a month-long deadline to resign.

    But Lahoud, effectively boycotted by France since his extension, has repeatedly vowed to serve out his full term.

    Saad Hariri, the son of the slain Rafik Hariri and who leads the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, described the attack by the presidency on Chirac as harmful.

    The accusations leveled against Chirac came as a Syrian government daily claimed U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman was also working to push Lahoud out of office.

    "The U.S. ambassador in Beirut has established a command post to manage attacks against President Emile Lahoud and the Lebanese resistance represented by Hizbullah," the Tishreen daily wrote Sunday.

    It said Feltman was "intervening in all details and coordinating to this end with Israeli security services, 200 of whose agents are currently in Lebanon," the paper claimed.

    Source
    dailystar




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