France will arrange aid conference for Lebanon by video in December

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France will host a video conference with international partners on Dec. 2 to discuss humanitarian aid for financially-strapped Lebanon, President Emmanuel Macron’s office told Reuters on Thursday.

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The meeting, organized in conjunction with the United Nations, will aim to have the highest-level representation possible with the objective of soliciting aid for Lebanon’s debt-crushed economy.

Macron has vowed to push ahead with efforts to prevent Lebanon collapsing after a massive explosion in Beirut’s port in August destroyed large areas of the city and compounded the country’s political and financial crisis.

However, a French initiative to stabilize Lebanon and enable the release of billions of dollars of international aid to fix the economy has yet to bear fruit.

Three sources familiar with the situation said that given the worsening economic situation and the COVID-19 pandemic, France had decided to press ahead with the humanitarian conference.

“There isn’t huge appetite to help Lebanon from the international community, but relief should go directly to the people,” said one person aware of the conference.

Conference details are still to be ironed out early next week, but it aims to attract as many senior government officials as possible.

Earlier in the day, restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) confirmed it had withdrawn from a forensic audit of Lebanon’s central bank as it had not received the information required to carry out the task.

The decision, first announced by Lebanon’s caretaker finance minister on Nov. 20, was a blow to the country as the audit is a key demand of foreign donors to help it exit a financial meltdown, its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. (Reporting by John Irish, Elizabeth Pineau and Michel Rose

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