Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said Sunday his country will not submit to conditions placed upon it for the staging of an international donor conference for the zone formerly occupied by Israel.
"Lebanon will not accept that any condition be imposed for coming to its help and will not make any concession at the expense of its dignity and its sovereignty," Lahoud said.
Lahoud set out this position in a statement after a meeting with Prime Minister Salim Hoss, who had just announced an indefinite postponement to the conference.
"The donor conference, scheduled for October 9, will not take place, nor will it happen in November because of the US presidential elections, nor will it happen before the new US president is sworn in, in January 2001," he said on his return from the UN General Assembly in New York.
"This delay is not in Lebanon's interest, because the former occupied zone is suffering very badly," he said, although neither leader explained why it was being postponed from its original date.
Hoss was quoted in Sunday's press as saying in New York that "Washington has not taken an encouraging attitude about holding the conference at the planned date."
But western diplomatic sources in Beirut say the donor countries and organizations are unwilling to give aid to Lebanon until the situation on the border with Israel is settled.
When Israel withdrew its troops from the border strip of Lebanon, which it had occupied for 22 years, UN cartographers drew up a withdrawal line, and UN peacekeepers took up position in the liberated area, although they did not deploy right down to the border.
Tension has remained high at two spots in particular, the former crossing point known as the Fatima Gate, and the religious site of Abbad, where Lebanese civilians gather almost every day and throw stones and other missiles at Israeli guard posts or insult Israeli troops on the other side of the fence.
In addition, Beirut has resisted international pressure to deploy its army in strength in the area, and has merely sent a mixed force of soldiers and gendarmes, who have also remained away from the border.
On July 27 a preparatory meeting of the ambassadors of 38 countries and 10 international financial institutions was held in Beirut to discuss giving Lebanon aid to help repair the economic ravages of occupation.
At that meeting Hoss put the urgent needs of the former occupied zone at 260 million dollars, and called for 1.3 billion to develop it over five years --BEIRUT (AFP)
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