Lebanon appeals for financial and military boost against Syria spillover
PARIS - Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on Wednesday sought financial and military aid to help his country tackle the spillover from the Syrian conflict at an international meeting in Paris.
The influx of Syrian refugees -- currently running at 50,000 a month -- "represents a real danger which threatens Lebanon's unity," Sleiman said ahead of the meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon.
The meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of 10 countries, including Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, Germany and Saudi Arabia.
"There are more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon," said French President Francois Hollande. "It is a very heavy burden."
Hollande, who has previously said France is willing to assist Lebanon in any way it needs, said the meeting should focus on more than just "moral and political" support -- calling for donors to provide training and equipment to Lebanese troops.
Financial measures were also due for discussion, including aid grants and a World Bank-managed trust fund designed to boost the Lebanese economy.
Saudi Arabia in December pledged $3 billion (2.1 billion euros) to bolster Lebanon's army. Lebanese sources say its army needs some $4.6 billion over the next five years to modernise and re-equip.
The International Support Group for Lebanon was set up six months ago to deal with the spillover from the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
The conflict has inflamed sectarian tensions in Lebanon, with the powerful Shiite Hezbollah movement sending fighters across the border to bolster Syrian government forces.
A string of car and suicide bomb attacks have targeted Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in recent months, killing dozens of civilians.
Syria maintained a military presence in Lebanon for nearly 30 years, after intervening during the country's 1975-1990 civil war.
It withdrew in 2005 after protests following the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.