Le Pen supports Assad, downplays nationality reform plans in Lebanon

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French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has downplayed her plans to suppress double nationality during an interview with privately-owned Lebanese daily L’Orient Le Jour on 20 February.

Le Pen, who has arrived in Beirut for a 48-hour visit, softened her stance on double nationality rules during the interview, saying that no decision had been made yet over the retroactivity of legislation that would ban French citizens from holding a second nationality.

“In principle, one can truly only have one nationality,” Le Pen said, but she did not exclude the possibility of some exceptions “through bilateral agreements with some countries”.

Le Pen told L’Orient Le Jour that she was considering to reestablish diplomatic ties with the Syrian government, to reopen the French Embassy in Damascus and to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

On the same day, Lebanese President Michel Aoun became the first foreign head of state to host Le Pen. She also met Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.

During a 30 minute news conference after her meeting with Aoun, Le Pen said that “Lebanon and France, who share common history, must be the pillars of the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism”.

She also highlighted the cost of the Syrian refugee crisis for Lebanon and “the weight of taking charge of an exceptional number of refugees for the economy and the health system”.

She lauded Aoun’s “courageous path, for many years” but told Lebanese media that she had “some differences which could be linked to the geographic location of our two countries” with premier Hariri.

“Each of us - naturally, we are both patriots - defends the interests of his country,” Le Pen added.

Hariri’s office published a statement after the visit warning of “conflating terrorism and Islam”.

Le Pen met the Lebanese minister of foreign affairs Jibran Bassil, several MPs and is due to meet the grand Mufti, Christian politician Samir Jaaja (leader of the Lebanese Forces party) and the Maronite Patriarch.

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