Pope, Italian President Pledge to Back Lebanon's Call for Comprehensive Regional Peace
Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud met Friday with Pope John Paul and Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who pledged to back Lebanon in its call for a just, comprehensive and permanent regional peace, reported the Daily Star newspaper.
"Lebanon has suffered much and it is time for it to rest. I shall continue to pray, work and help until the suffering, pain and grief of Lebanon and the Lebanese comes to an end," the Pope told Lahoud during an audience in the Vatican, said the paper.
Lahoud, who arrived in Italy on Thursday for a three-day official visit, told the Pope that "Christian stability in Lebanon depended above all on its affiliation to its Arab environment," said the paper.
Lahoud also extended an invitation to the Pope to visit the country as part of a pilgrimage to the holy land in May a trip which is also expected to take him to Syria.
For his part, Ciampi affirmed to Lahoud that his country would continue to support Lebanon politically, economically and developmentally.
Lahoud reiterated his country's position on a Middle East settlement, stating that it should be based on a land-for-peace equation, the right of Palestinians to return to their country, and Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories, the paper said.
The visit is Lahoud's first to Europe since taking office in 1998.
Lahoud expressed appreciation for the "sacrifices" made by Italian troops serving with UNIFIL, and said he hoped bilateral relations would be consolidated in various areas of concern.
Ciampi then conveyed his government's intention to give another 70 billion lire ($33.7 million) to development projects in Lebanon, said the paper.
Currently, Italy has 210 billion lire ($ 101.3 million) invested in development projects, mostly in rural areas and southern regions.
The two presidents also discussed an agreement on military cooperation, and decided that both countries' defense ministers would sign it "as soon as possible," the paper added - Albawaba.com
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