Canada pledged Monday, May 2, to join in any international program to help relieve Lebanon of its debt burden, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said. Talking to journalists after a private meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, Chretien said his guest was asking the international community to help reduce its debt burden.
"I said if there is agreement in the international community, Canada will help," said Chretien. Hariri added that Chretien had also agreed Canada would participate in an international conference of Lebanon's creditors, which will probably be held in Paris "in the months to come."
The Lebanese leader told Chretien that Lebanon's interest payments currently account for 43 percent of its national budget. He said Beirut was already working on domestic reform to help ease its financial crisis.
Measures already begun included "privatization, reducing the size of the government and reducing the cost of the government," he said. Later, at a gala dinner, Hariri noted he had just completed a tour of several countries.
"I was heartened to find that the international community at large shares the opinion that the economic and social stability of Lebanon is central to the stability of the (Middle East) region," he said.
During Hariri's visit to Ottawa, Canada signed an agreement for Canadian support for logistics required for this year's summit for Francophonie — a group of countries, which use the French language. The summit will be held in Beirut October 26-28.
Ron Duhmael, Canada's secretary of state for Francophonie said the package would be in the region of some four million Canadian dollars (US $2.7 million).
Canada, which organized the last Francophonie summit in Moncton, New Brunswick, two years ago, will provide assistance in such areas as accreditation, computers, communications co-ordination, security and cultural activities, said Duhamel. — (AFP, Ottawa)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)