Canada Promises to be Part of any Plans for Lebanon’s Debt Relief
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien pledged Monday that his country would join in any international program to help relieve Lebanon of its debt burden, reported the Daily Star newspaper.
Speaking to reporters after a private meeting with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, Chretien said his guest was asking the international community to help ease Lebanon’s debt load.
“I told him (Hariri) if there is agreement in the international community, Canada will help,” said Chretien.
Hariri said Chretien had also agreed that Canada would participate in an international conference of Lebanon’s creditors, which will probably be held “in the months to come,” the paper added.
Hariri informed Chretien that Lebanon’s interest payments currently account for 43 percent of the national budget. He added that Beirut was already working on domestic reform to help ease its financial crisis, but asserted that it needed help to reduce the cost of debt servicing.
Hariri said that measures already started included “privatization and reducing the size and cost of the government.”
Chretien said businessmen in his country were interested in privatization opportunities in several fields, including electricity, communications, and water.
The two leaders also discussed the possibility of establishing direct flights between their countries because many Canadians wanted “easier and direct” flights, Chretien said.
Hariri said the two men agreed on the need to respect United Nations resolutions to reach peace in the Middle East.
He reiterated that the United States could play a major role in establishing peace.
“I think the US can play an important role to make everybody respect international laws and UN resolutions,” he said, cited by the paper.
Asked by reporters about Syria’s presence in Lebanon, Hariri said it was an issue for the Syrian and Lebanese governments to discuss.
According to the paper, Chretien echoed his counterpart’s comments and said he hoped Lebanon and Syria would reach a solution on the matter.
Sources told the paper that Chretien told Hariri he would attend the Francophone Summit, which will be held here in October, and promised him that Canada would pay $3.5 million to support the gathering.
According to the sources, Hariri said that a second Paris Conference, to be held sometime in the next few months, would be aimed at reducing the cost of debt servicing through long-term borrowing. The conference will be held in either Paris, Brussels, or Washington, the sources said.
Meanwhile, Hariri will meet French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday in Paris, the last leg of his tour that has so far taken him to the Vatican, US and Canada – Albawaba.com