Lahoud attacks West's double standards, talks up economy

10 January 2003
Lebanon's President Lahoud echoed UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in a speech to his own consular corps on 9 January, calling for an end to the 'double standard' the West applied to Iraq and Israel. He lauded Iraq's co-operation with the UN weapons inspectors, and called for it to continue, then asked: 'But who can bring the Jewish state to account for the weapons of mass destruction it owns? -Why is the world turning a blind eye to Israel's violations of international laws and charters?' Some in Lebanon fear Israel might use the disruption caused by a US war on Iraq to attack southern Lebanon and the Hezbollah movement based there.

Lahoud also discussed the economy, saying that the situation was improving and that international confidence was growing - a positive prognosis corroborated by a World Bank report released on 6 January (MEED 9:1:03). Attempting to rise above recent domestic political disputes over Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's 2003 budget and the suspension of satellite broadcasting service NTV, he cautioned against letting 'small matters and marginal details' get in the way of the interest of the nation as a whole. The relationship between Lahoud and Hariri has been tense since the Prime Minister's 1 January decision to cut the international connection of NTV for insisting on broadcasting a programme on Saudi-US relations, while Hariri is still battling to get through his budget in the face of parliamentary opposition to new taxes.

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