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Arab Countries Split on Refugee Problem; Lebanon Backs Resettlement

A Lebanese cabinet minister today warned other Arab countries that Lebanon will not continue to support Arab intransigence in refusing the resettlement of the Arab refugees and that his country may split off from the Arab camp on this issue.

Commenting on the Arab League’s outright rejection of U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold’s report on the refugees, Pierre Jumeil, Lebanese Minister of Labor and leader of the Christian Falange coalition party, declared that this was the last warning to the Arab countries that Lebanon cannot support a negative attitude and unless Arab leaders swiftly find a constructive solution to the refugee problem, Lebanon will have to go its own way.

The Minister explained that small Lebanon cannot carry any longer the burden of 100,000 refugees who form 11 percent of the population, while Lebanon’s own citizens are forced to emigrate. The Arab governments cannot reject all constructive suggestions while failing to produce their own feasible proposal, Jumeil said. He proposed that the Arab countries ask the United States and the Soviet Union to jointly work out a solution of the Arab refugee problem.

Behind Jumeil’s firm words seems to be the fact that Lebanese political balance is based on an uneasy equilibrium between the Moslem and Christian populations with 90 percent of the refugees being Moslems while most of the emigrants are Christians, thus threatening to upset the balance.

Arab League delegates meeting in Beirut yesterday, cautiously rejected the terms of Mr. Hammarskjold’s suggestions about integration of the refugees into the economic life in the host countries, while repeating demagogic statements about the impending return of the refugees to what was formerly Palestine.

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