Exclusive: Lebanon leans toward French offer to rebuild Beirut’s port after explosion

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Lebanon is leaning toward accepting a French offer to reconstruct the demolished Port of Beirut after interest poured in from Qatar, Turkey, China and others, official sources with knowledge of the matter said Wednesday.

A top US official will arrive in Beirut on Thursday night and Lebanese officials have previously said that the border demarcation with Israel will be a central point of discussion. But Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale is also expected to discuss the reconstruction of the destroyed Beirut port, two official Lebanese sources told Al Arabiya English.

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The Port of Beirut was demolished during the Aug. 4 explosions that rocked the Lebanese capital and destroyed buildings miles away.

Lebanon’s other main port, Port of Tripoli, is currently acting as the country's main port following the explosion. There are smaller ports in south Lebanon.

In the aftermath of the explosions, several countries jumped to offer their services to rebuild the Beirut port, including France, China, Turkey and Qatar.

The official sources in Lebanon say that the French are poised to take on the reconstruction efforts. “We expect this to be discussed during Hale’s visit on Friday,” a Lebanese Presidency source said.

Qatar and Turkey, fierce rivals of Arab and Gulf states, and China’s deteriorating relationship with Washington are pushing Lebanon toward adopting a French proposal, potentially in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates.

“As of now, the consensus in Lebanon, and our best interest is to go with the French. If we go with the French, the US will not be instigated. And if we go with the Chinese, the US will continue its pressure campaign against Lebanon. With Turkey and Qatar, their ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Arab rivalry will not help Lebanon at all,” the second source, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter, revealed.

“Lebanon’s best bet is to go with the French; no one will feel that we sided against them,” the second source added.

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