Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri left Beirut Monday, February 26, for Paris where he is to have talks focusing on the economic crisis in Lebanon, officials said.
Lebanon is going through one of the worst crises of its history, struggling under the burden of a public debt estimated at around $25 billion, which is taking up nearly all the state's resources.
Before leaving for Paris, Hariri went to Damascus where he discussed bilateral relations with his Syrian counterpart, Mohammad Mustafa Miro.
In Paris, Hariri is scheduled to meet French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin as well as World Bank head James Wolfensohn and European Union President Romano Prodi.
He will also confer with the deputy president of the European Investment Bank, Francis Mayer, and the French Finance Minister Laurent Fabius.
Hariri is accompanied by Finance Minister Fuad Siniora, Economics and Trade Minister Bassel Fleihan and the head of the Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salame.
In 2000, Lebanon's economy posted negative growth for a second consecutive year. Debt servicing payments account for 44 percent of the $6.6 billion budget for 2001, and exceeds revenues. — (AFP, Beirut)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )