SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS LEBANON, 20 - 21 MARCH
The Secretary-General arrived in Beirut from Cairo in the morning of Friday, 20 March. He was greeted by Foreign Minister Fares Bouez. He met privately with the Foreign Minister, and then both Lebanese and United Nations delegations spent over an hour discussing Iraq, the Middle East Peace process and the situation in southern Lebanon.
After a luncheon hosted by the Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General addressed United Nations staff at the new headquarters for the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
He met with representatives of a dozen United Nations agencies and then inaugurated the new United Nations House, which had been built in central Beirut on land cleared of the rubble of war as part of a massive project to rebuild the centre of the city, and is expected to house many of the United Nations agencies working in Lebanon. "The idea of a house of all nations", he said, "held together by a common bond and structure, helps us to visualize the very concept upon which the United Nations was built." (See Press Release SG/SM/6497.)
In the, evening the Secretary-General met with Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the House.
His final meeting of the day was with Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, which was followed by a dinner held in the Secretary-General's honour by the Prime Minister.
On Saturday, 21 March, the Secretary-General and his party left Beirut aboard United Nations helicopters to visit the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Naqoura. He laid a wreath at a memorial to peacekeepers killed while on duty. He was briefed by Force Commander Major-General Jioje Konousi Konrote and his senior officers on the situation in the UNIFIL area of operations. He also addressed the soldiers and staff.
On returning to Beirut, he met with President Elias Hraoui of Lebanon. They discussed the stalled Middle East peace process, the situation in southern Lebanon, and the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
After a luncheon hosted by President Hraoui, the Secretary-General went to the American University of Beirut where he made a speech (see Press Release SG/SM/6499), and took a number of challenging questions. "Your task is not only to build a future society", he said, "it is to build a stronger society, one which older generations cannot even imagine, one fit for your children's children."
At United Nations House, which he had dedicated the day before, the Secretary-General met with members of the families of Lebanese civilians detained in Israeli prisons. He pledged to take up the matter with Israeli authorities.
After a press conference, he travelled to Damascus to begin an official visit to Syria.