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Leb. Leaders Urged To Work For National Interest

Secretary-General urges Lebanese leaders to work for national interest

Lebanon's leaders must place the national interest above their personal and sectarian interests as the country prepares to elect a new president before a constitutional deadline later this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he wrapped up a two-day visit to the country.

Mr. Ban told reporters in Beirut that the whole world was watching Lebanon, adding that it was imperative that the Parliament be convened to elect a president.

He also reiterated that the election, which is supposed to take place by 24 November, must be held on time, in accordance with the constitution and without any foreign interference.

Earlier today the Secretary-General held talks with Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir at the residence of the Maronite Church leader. UN spokesperson Michele Montas said the two men discussed the current situation in Lebanon and Mr. Ban commended the Patriarch's efforts to seek a solution to the political crisis.

Mr. Ban also held discussions with Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano, the Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), on recent press reports concerning the mission's continuing presence in the country.

The Secretary-General emphasized that UNIFIL will stay in Lebanon as long as is necessary and that the international community remained fully behind the mission and its mandate.

In addition to those meetings, Mr. Ban also held talks with other Lebanese leaders, including representatives of the so-called 14 March coalition, Walid Jumblatt, the former president Amine Gemayel, Suleiman Franjieh, Samir Geagea and Mohammad Fneish.

Lebanon is the latest stop on an international trip that has recently taken the Secretary-General to Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Antarctica, Spain and Tunisia. He now returns to Spain to participate in tomorrow's launch of the fourth and final report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


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