U.N.’s Ban urges Lebanese army to back president

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U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday appealed to Lebanon’s armed forces to remain loyal to President Michel Sleiman as sectarian tensions fuelled by the Syrian conflict mounted.

Ban is following events in Lebanon with “deep concern,” said U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey after 16 Lebanese troops were killed as they battled followers of a radical Sunni Muslim sheikh for two days.

“He condemns the attacks on the Lebanese Armed Forces, which have led to serious losses in the army,” said del Buey.

Ban “stresses that all in Lebanon should fully respect the authority of the state and its institutions under the leadership of President Sleiman, in particular the Lebanese Armed Forces whose role is essential to protect all Lebanese.”

With Lebanon facing increasing pressure from Syrian refugees and growing tensions between the Sunni and Shiite communities, the U.N. said “the international community remains united in its support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, security and stability.”

“The secretary general reminds all concerned in Lebanon of their responsibility to avoid conflict and uphold the principles of mutual respect and coexistence in order to preserve Lebanon’s national unity.”

Sleiman has called on the powerful Shiite group Hezbollah to end its role in the Syria war. Hezbollah has taken the side of President Bashar al-Assad and played a key role in taking the town of Qusayr.

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