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Free & Fair Election Will Be Milestone For Lebanon

Free and fair presidential election will be 'milestone' for Lebanon - Ban Ki-moon

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid a visit today to Lebanon, where he has once again stressed that the holding of a free and fair presidential election later this month, without any foreign interference, would constitute a milestone for a country whose political situation he described as "complex and difficult."

Mr. Ban's visit comes as Lebanon prepares to elect a new president before the constitutional deadline of 24 November. If successful, it would mark the first time that the Lebanese people have had the opportunity to conduct free and fair presidential elections since the end of the country's brutal civil war in 1990.

"The country now stands at an important crossroads in its modern history," Mr. Ban told reporters upon arriving in Beirut. "A free and fair election of a new president according to constitutional rules without foreign interference is a milestone in the development of Lebanon as a vibrant democracy.

"It constitutes a pillar in its aspirations to recover its full political independence and sovereignty; and to secure its territorial integrity," he added, while stressing that the election should take place on time and in accordance with Lebanese constitutional rules.

While in Lebanon, the Secretary-General is scheduled to meet separately with Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri and leader of the 14 March movement Saad Hariri, before having a working dinner with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

Beirut is the latest stop on an international trip that has already taken the Secretary-General to South America, Antarctica, Spain and Tunisia.

Earlier today in Tunis, Mr. Ban addressed the international conference on counter-terrorism taking place in the Tunisian capital, stating that the UN's 192 Member States made history just over one year ago when they adopted the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy as a visionary yet practical guide for international activities to counter terrorism.

"Yet our work together is just beginning," he told participants. "Now we must implement the Strategy in all its dimensions. By next September, when the General Assembly meets to review implementation of the strategy, we must all have concrete progress to show - Member States, the UN system, and our key partners in regional and other organizations."

Before leaving Tunisia, the Secretary-General met with that country's President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, as well as the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with the President, Mr. Ban said the two discussed, among other topics, Tunisia's sustained economic growth and its progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - the set of ambitious targets the world has set itself for slashing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and other social ills by 2015, as well as how to counter terrorism.


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