Lebanon tries to reassure Palestinians

May 24, 2007 at 3:17 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 24 (UPI) -- Lebanese leaders continue to assure the Palestinian refugees that their dark history in Lebanon will not be repeated and that they will not be targeted.

The latest assurance came Thursday in a televised speech by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who stressed his country is concerned with the security and safety of some 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

"There will be no sedition between the Lebanese and Palestinians," Siniora declared. "We are very keen on the close and brotherly relations that link our two peoples, and just as keen for the security of the Palestinians, who should be the responsibility of the legitimate Lebanese authority."

The prime minister's statements came after this week's armed clashes between the Lebanese army and an Islamic militant group, Fatah al-Islam, in and around the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli caught the Palestinian civilians in the cross fire. The fighting, during which the camp of 40,000 refugees was virtually under siege, raised fears among Palestinians that they will again become a target in Lebanon as they had often been throughout the 1975-1990 civil war.

Siniora vowed the government will work towards "sheltering and protecting the Palestinians." Most of the Lebanese political leaders have tried to assure the Palestinians that the army's fight against Fatah al-Islam was one against terrorism and has nothing to do with the refugees, their status in the country or their leaders.

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