Exclusive: If Lebanon needs financial aid, France will be there, finance minister says

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FILE PHOTO: French Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire speaks during the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, February 22, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

RIYADH (Reuters) – France is ready to support Lebanon financially — bilaterally or multilaterally — its finance minister said on Sunday, warning against mixing economic recovery in the small Mediterranean state with U.S.-led efforts to counter Iran in the region.

“France always stands ready to help Lebanon. It has always been the case in the past and it will be the case in the future…” Bruno Le Maire told Reuters at the end of a meeting of finance officials from the Group of 20 (G20) major economies.

“We know that there are ties between the two issues but we don’t want to mix the issue of economic recovery in Lebanon, which is today the clear emergency, and the question of Iran,” he added.

As Lebanon’s economic crisis deepens, Western and Sunni-led Gulf Arab states that helped in the past have made clear that any support hinges on Beirut implementing long-delayed reforms to address root causes such as state corruption and bad governance.

Le Maire said decisions by Lebanon’s government were urgently needed to improve the situation on the ground.

Reporting by Stephen Kalin. Editing by Jane Merriman

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