The French Foreign Minister, Louis de Guiringaud, arrived in Lebanon on Thursday (17 February) at the start of a tour of the Middle East.
GV French Foreign Minister, Louis de Guiringaud, arrives and walks past guard of honour
GV M. de Guiringaud with Lebanese F.M. Fouad Butros at President Sarkis residence
SV M. de Guiringaud and President Sarkis during talks
SV Officials talking
SV M. de Guiringaud speaking at news conference in French
Two teams of French experts held talks in Lebanon last month, one to discuss prospects of French aid in rebuilding Beirut's shattered port and the other to study what assistance France can give in the field of education.
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Background: The French Foreign Minister, Louis de Guiringaud, arrived in Lebanon on Thursday (17 February) at the start of a tour of the Middle East.
SYNOPSIS: His visit is aimed at finding what role France can play in helping to settle the Middle East conflict. French officials say Beirut was chosen as the first stop to underline the close and friendly links between the two countries.
After his arrival, M. de Guiringaud and his Lebanese counterpart, Fouad Butros, visited the Lebanese President Elias Sarkis. Their talks were also expected to include the situation in southern Lebanon, where sporadic fighting has continued since the Arab League stopped the fighting.
In an interview, Mr de Guiringaud said that 1977 offered better circumstances than ever for the search for peace in the Middle East. He says his tour has no economic aspects, since there are already economic agreements between the four countries he is to visit. But observers quoted by Reuters news agency said the possibility of French assistance in rebuilding the war-shattered Lebanese economy was likely to figure in his talks. Lebanon became independent from French rule in 1943. But since the ceasefire, France has played an active part in assessing what needs to be done to replace the war losses estimated at up to five billion U.S. dollars. (GBP3 billion sterling)
M. de Guiringaud's visits to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt are part of intense international efforts to bring about a settlement of the protracted conflict between the Arabs and Israel. Similar tours have been made by the United States Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, and West Germany's Foreign Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher.