France will stand against those who seek to destabilize Lebanon, President Francois Hollande said on Sunday during a visit to Beirut two weeks after a car bombing that killed Lebanon’s internal security chief Wessam al-Hassan.
“I want to remind all those who have an interest in creating instability in Lebanon that France will oppose that because Lebanon is an example of unity,” Hollande said during a joint press conference with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.
Hollande said those who assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and General al-Hassan will not escape punishment.
The French president arrived in Beirut on Sunday for a short visit during to hold talks with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman.
Hollande stressed that Lebanon should not become a “victim” of the Syrian crisis, ensuring that France will support the country’s “security and stability.”
The two leaders discussed ways to support Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which have reached 100 thousand according to Hollande.
Hollande’s trip to Lebanon is considered the first by a French president since the previous head of state, Nicolas Sarkozy, visited in June 2008.
The visit comes two weeks after Lebanon’s opposition called on Prime Minister Najib Mikati to resign, accusing the government of complicity with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The resignation call followed a massive car bombing in central Beirut which killed three people in October, including top security official Wissam al-Hassan, in an attack the opposition blamed on Syria and its allies in Lebanon.
A French government source said the visit was “a strong political gesture of backing for Lebanon’s sovereignty and the preservation of its integrity in the face of destabilization threats.”
Hollande later goes on to Jeddah for talks with King Abdullah on the international standoff on Iran’s contested nuclear program and the Syrian crisis, French officials said.