Lebanon's parliament has approved a law allowing all foreigners to buy property in the country, with the exception of Palestinian refugees, whom Beirut does not want to see settle. The law extends to the citizens of all recognized countries a law allowing Arabs to purchase property up to 3,000 square meters (30,000 square feet) in area.
Total foreign-owned acquisitions cannot exceed seven percent of the area of the capital, or three percent of any one administrative district. Previously, non-Arabs wishing to buy property, even just an apartment, had to obtain a special cabinet decree in an excessively long, costly and complicated procedure.
The measure is one of several announced by Prime Minister Ragiq Hariri when he came to office in October, aimed at opening up to foreign investors in a bid to revive the almost bankrupt Lebanese economy. While it does not specifically exclude the Palestinians, the law says only citizens of a state recognized by Lebanon qualify, unless again they obtain special cabinet permission.
Citing the parliamentary debate before the vote, sometimes critical press reports Thursday stressed that the condition was clearly aimed at the some 367,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, whom Beirut wants to see leave. The Palestinians, who fled their homes on the creation of Israel in 1948 and live mainly in camps in harsh conditions, are also barred from some 60 professions and jobs which require membership of a union.
Their permanent settlement in the country is barred under the constitution, for fear of disturbing Lebanon's delicate religious and political balance, and Beirut is vocal in insisting on recognition of their right of return in any Middle East peace accord, something which Israel rejects. — (AFP, Beirut)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)