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Libya Boycotts Arab Economic Summit in Beirut over Flag Spat

Libya Boycotts Arab Economic Summit in Beirut over Flag Spat

Monday, 14 January, 2019 - 19:45
Libya to boycott Arab economic summit in Beirut. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) announced on Monday that it will boycott this weekend’s Arab economic summit scheduled for Beirut after Amal movement supporters attacked its national flag.

"We have been forced to boycott this summit and refuse to participate in its work" because Lebanon was unable to guarantee "the appropriate climate" for it, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The GNA said the Lebanese government had failed to prevent the attack on Libya's flag.

On Sunday, Amal supporters removed Libyan flags placed along Beirut’s seaside avenue, as part of Arab League preparations to welcome countries attending the summit.

The supporters replaced those flags with their movement’s green flag.

The movement objects that Lebanon builds ties with Libya due to the 1978 disappearance of the movement’s founder, Imam Mousa al-Sadr, and two of his companions during an official visit to the country.

The summit will go ahead despite an internal dispute caused by parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who heads Amal, after he expressed his objection to inviting Libya after earlier calling to postpone the event over Syria’s absence.

In Cairo, Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit voiced "deep concern" over the burning of the Libyan flag in Beirut.

He called on Lebanon to "ensure full respect for the delegations of member states from the Arab League who must participate in the summit meetings".

The Lebanese presidency expressed its disappointment with the burning of the Libyan flags, its sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, meanwhile, said it was unfortunate that Libya was not taking part in the summit.

In a letter to his Libyan counterpart, he expressed his rejection of all acts that have harmed Libya and its attendance of the meeting.

“Such behavior does not reflect my or Lebanon’s stance,” he stressed.

Moreover, he underlined his keenness on ties with Libya, urging the need to “return them on the right track while reserving Beirut’s national duty to uncover the fate of Imam al-Sadr and his companions.”

The issue that has marred Lebanese-Libyan relations for more than four decades must be resolved, he demanded.

Summit organizers in Beirut told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the choice for a country to attend the meeting or not was a sovereign decision”.

“We have taken all necessary security measures to ensure the safety of participating delegations,” they added.

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