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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Iraq dominates francophone summit
Jacques Chirac with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud
Chirac and Lahoud raised political issues
A summit of francophone (French-speaking) nations has opened in the Lebanese capital Beirut, with a strong warning from French President Jacques Chirac against the use of force in Iraq.

Mr Chirac said military force must only be used as a last resort, and called for all conflicts to be resolved in ways respecting international law.


In the modern world, the use of force should only be a last, and exceptional, resort

French President Jacques Chirac
Iraq dominated many of the speeches on the first day of the meeting, but delegates are also discussing poverty, human rights and globalisation.

The summit, which brings together leaders from 55 nations, was due to take place last year but was postponed following the 11 September attacks in the United States.

It will continue until Sunday when a final declaration will be unveiled.

This is the second time this year that Beirut has hosted a summit of this scale. In March state members of the Arab League also met in Lebanon.

Security is again high, with flight paths being altered and about 8,000 soldiers deployed around the Lebanese capital.

Opening speeches

The summit began with 45 minutes of traditional Lebanese music to welcome the 41 leaders from countries such as Canada, Vietnam, Albania and Mali.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Chirac welcomed Bouteflika's presence at the summit
The BBC's Kim Ghattas, in Beirut, says the international francophone organisation is mostly about culture.

But this was not borne out by the opening speeches, with Mr Chirac reiterating his country's position on Iraq.

"In the modern world, the use of force should only be a last, and exceptional, resort," he said.

"It can only be allowed in case of legitimate defence or after a decision by the competent international bodies."

In his speech, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud launched a scathing attack against Israel, accusing it of state terrorism against the Palestinians.

"The Israeli occupation immortalises and glorifies [terrorism] under its most perverse way, one that is state-sponsored," he said.

Algerian presence

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hezbollah guerrilla organisation, took a front row seat alongside Lebanon's religious leaders.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is also attending although his country is not a member of the organisation.

It is the first time that an Algerian president has participated in a francophone summit since Algeria opted not to play up ties with its former colonial master.

Mr Bouteflika's presence was welcomed by the French president as an example of the need for solidarity between francophone countries.


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18 Oct 02 | Middle East
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