Lebanon and the European Union will initial an association agreement in Brussels on December 20, Minister of the Displaced Marwan Hamadeh said Tuesday, December 11. Hamadeh told reporters after a late cabinet session that Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri had made the announcement at the meeting.
Hariri will travel to Brussels for the ceremony, with Economy Minister Bassel Fleihan signing the deal, government sources told AFP. Beirut's association agreement with the European Union, a crucial step to reviving the country's economy, had hit a snag on Friday with Britain's last-minute demand for the inclusion of an anti-terrorism clause. There was no official information on how the issue of the anti-terrorism clause was resolved.
But press reports said Tuesday the clause had been dropped and that Lebanon would subsequently draft a letter pledging Beirut's cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts. London had raised the inclusion of the anti-terrorism clause on November 30 at a meeting in Brussels of senior EU officials discussing negotiations with Lebanon. The accord will not take effect until it has been unanimously adopted by EU members.
Lebanon's financial situation is fragile, with a debt exceeding $25 billion representing 150 percent of gross domestic product and a stagnant economy since 1998. — (AFP, Beirut)
© Agence France Presse 2001
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