At first summit, Lebanese, Palestinian leaders condemn weapons flows |

At first summit, Lebanese, Palestinian leaders condemn weapons flows

PARIS – Palestinian and Lebanese leaders on Tuesday used their first-ever summit to condemn the smuggling of arms to Palestinian militants in Lebanon – part of a recent round of diplomacy in Paris that has pinpointed Syria as an impediment to Lebanese security.Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora criticized the flow of illegal weapons and militant groups into Palestinian refugee camps. Lebanon’s premier said Abbas protested “infiltration” of weapons through Syria.In a joint statement issued after their 45-minute talks, Abbas and Saniora said movements of weapons and militant groups through refugee camps “negatively influence the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon.”Saniora said his government was seeking ways to regulate weapons within the camps.”I think we are on the right track,” he told reporters.The unusual meeting came just days after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with President Jacques Chirac and other top French officials in Paris. Syria and Lebanon were high on the agenda.France believes the U.N. Security Council, where it has a permanent seat, will take action after the upcoming release of United Nations reports on the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanese territory, a senior French government official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to provide details publicly.He said France is waiting for the report on Hariri’s assassination – particularly whether Syrian officials were implicated – before deciding its position. Lebanese opposition leaders accuse Syria of playing a role in Hariri’s murder in a Feb. 14 car bombing, allegations Damascus has denied repeatedly.France also fears that Palestinian militants threaten Lebanese stability and has been discussing the Lebanon-Syria situation with Washington, the official said.”France is supporting Lebanon’s efforts in this difficult period,” Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said.Saniora, a former anti-Syrian lawmaker, took office over the summer, after Syria in April pulled its troops out of Lebanon under international pressure led by the United States and France.Emboldened by international support for Lebanon’s fragile steps toward independence, Saniora has broached once-taboo subjects like disarming militants in Lebanon and suggested that Lebanon and Syria, which dominated its smaller neighbor for 29 years, should treat each other as equals.There are more than 350,000 Palestinians in Lebanon, mainly refugees and their descendants from the 1948 war that created Israel. They are crammed into 12 impoverished and often violent camps. The Lebanese army has no control over the camps.Syria’s pullout from Lebanon has prompted armed Palestinian factions to negotiate with Lebanon over giving up some weapons – a demand that would have been unthinkable before the Syrian withdrawal.Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated prime minister, also met with Abbas in Paris on Tuesday, and praised the new willingness to take up the once “prohibited” subject of Palestinian weapons in Lebanon.At home, Abbas has come under increasing pressure from Palestinian militants with Israel calling off peace talks after the weekend shooting deaths of three Israelis near a West Bank settlement.Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism