Arabian Business Weekly Update 26 October 2004

Lebanon has a new Prime Minister. He needs all the help he can get.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  October 26, 2004

Double standards|~||~||~|The new Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karameh has a tough job on his hands. His appointment, after the resignation of Rafik Hariri, was hardly an overwhelming victory for democracy, given that one-fifth of his country’s own MPs boycotted the talks to elect him. And things will only get harder. Faced with growing international pressure and grappling with a debt of US$32 billion, Lebanon needs all the help it can get. Gone are Hariri's high-powered supporters in Saudi Arabia and France. High-powered enemies at the United Nations, demanding that 15,000 Syrian troops pull out of the country, have replaced them. The latest UN resolution, sponsored by the US, implies that unless the Syrians leave, then so will American financial aid and support from the World Bank to reduce debt. Given that Karameh is a key ally of the regime in Damascus, the Syrian troops are going nowhere. All of which means the 12 years of reconstruction work that former Prime Minister Hariri undertook (much to his own financial benefit) could soon be undone. Despite the huge debt, Lebanon is back on the world map. Beirut’s central district is the Paris of the Middle East, and the country has a state-of-the-art airport, as well as modern road infrastructure. The country has come a long way, but its entire economic future is under threat. All the US wants is for those 15,000 Syrian troops to pull out of Lebanon. Should they go? The demand would have at least a shred of credibility if over 100,000 US troops were not currently meddling in Iraq. As things stand, the US and the UN have no credibility in Lebanon. They should allow Karameh to continue rebuilding his country, his economy and his political party, even if it means hosting Syrian troops. ||**||

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