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France

Paris meeting pledges aid for Lebanon as Syria refugees flow in

media Lebanese President Michel Sleiman (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry after the International Support Group for Lebanon meeting at the Elysee Palace reuters/Kevin Lamarque

A summit in Paris has promised to help Lebanon with money and military equipment as the conflict in Syria drives more than a million refugees over the border. The influx is an "existential" threat to the country's unity, President Michel Sleiman told a contact group of foreign ministers from 10 countries on Wednesday.

More than a million refugees have fled from wartorn Syria to Lebanon, whose population is four million, since the conflict began three years ago and continue arriving at a rate of 50,000 per month.

France said it would assist Lebanon in any way it needs.

President François Hollande said the international community has three priorities for Lebanon:

"First, the funds sent to help refugees must be complemented and increased, to relieve Lebanon's burdens as much as possible," he declared. "The second priority is to support the Lebanese economy - through the World Bank, infrastructure projects will be financed and the country's public funds will be safeguarded. The third priority is to ensure the security of Lebanon and to allow the Lebanese army to have the necssary equipment. France is contributing in this area, working along with Saudi Arabia."

As well as promising financial aid, the meeting's final statement called for the authors of "repeated terrorist attacks" should be brought to justice.

Donors at a conference in Kuwait in January pledged 1.7 billion euros in aid to the refugees and France has already committed 10.4 million euros in 2014 and is to unblock a further one million, sources told the AFP news agency.

France, Norway and Finland have made the first contributions to the World Bank fund for the Lebanese economy.

Saudi Arabia has promised over two million euros to the Lebanese army and France has delivered heat-seeking anti-tank missiles, according to sources.

Several projects are conditional on normal political life returning to Lebanon and the conference said it was "crucial" that the presidential election, due at the end of May, and parliamentary elections take place as planned.

Media coverage of the conference was overshadowed by meetings on its sidelines - notably between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov - related to the crisis in Ukraine.

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