Parliament Speaker: U.S. Plan Will Not Lure Lebanon Into Settling Palestinians 

BEIRUT (Reuters) -
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri (L) seen with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. (Reuters/Mohamed Azakir)

Lebanon will not be lured by a U.S. plan to invest billions in the country in return for settling Palestinian refugees, its parliament speaker Nabih Berri said on Sunday.

President Donald Trump’s blueprint for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, set to be presented by his son-in-law Jared Kushner at a Bahrain conference, envisions a $50 billion investment plan to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies. But it has met broad rejection in the Arab world, even as some in the Gulf called for giving it a chance.

Lebanese parties have long held that Palestinian refugees cannot be permanently settled in the country, which is widely believed in Lebanon to be a goal of the Kushner plan.

“Those who think that waving billions of dollars can lure Lebanon, which is under the weight of a suffocating economic crisis, into succumbing or bartering over its principles are mistaken,” Berri said in a statement from his office.

The rejection of settling Palestinian refugees who must have the right of return stands at the forefront of these principles, he said.

The idea of permanently settling mainly Sunni Muslim refugees is highly sensitive in Lebanon, sparking fears of rocking its sectarian balance.

The country maintains a power-sharing system among its many religious sects that fought a war between 1975 and 1990 which included Palestinian factions.

The heavily armed Shiite Hezbollah movement, which is backed by Iran and wields big influence in Lebanon, has called Trump’s plan “a historic crime” that must be stopped.