US attempts to charm Lebanese

First an Arabic magazine sponsored by the State Department, now America’s PR push moves to Lebanon after the first US trade fair in more than thirty years opens in Beirut.

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By  John Irish Published  September 2, 2003

Lebanese businessmen are the latest targets of America’s charm offensive after the first US trade fair held since the 1975-1990 civil war opened in the Levantine state on September 01. It will run for three days until September 03.

The move follows the launch in July of an Arabic language magazine sponsored by the US State Department aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the Middle East youth.

The exhibition, which is under intense security, is seen as an attempt to normalise relations between Lebanon and the US. Among the 122 companies attending the fair are Microsoft, General Electric and IBM.

“We’ve had a very positive response; we’re very happy,” said James McCracken, economic and commercial officer at the US consulate.

American companies were almost entirely frozen out of Lebanon’s post war reconstruction until 1997 when a travel ban was lifted. Since then US firms have gradually manoeuvred themselves into Lebanon’s private sector, establishing offices in the country.

Diplomatic ties between the two nations, however, were only rekindled last May when America restored its Beirut consulate 20 years after a suicide truck attack on the US embassy killed 120.

Despite this, not everybody is embracing renewed US-Lebanese ties. The opening was met with a 100 protestors trampling on US flags holding placards dismissive of trade relations with the US.

In a statement, the Lebanese-based Campaign to Boycott supporters of Israel said that it could not accept the presence of companies “which support the Zionist entity, the occupation of Iraq and the annihilation of the Palestinian popular uprising.”

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