Palestinian leader visits Beirut

A016883315.jpgPalestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been holding talks with senior Lebanese officials in Beirut at the start of a two-day visit.

He is discussing issues including the future of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

The refugees want better living conditions and easier access to jobs.

Lebanese officials have expressed concern about outbreaks of violence in the refugee camps, where security is controlled by Palestinian groups.

Mr Abbas is also expected to discuss efforts to rebuild one of the camps, Nahr al-Bared near Tripoli, which was heavily damaged in fighting last year between the Lebanese army and the militant Islamist group, Fatah al-Islam.

An estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in 12 camps in Lebanon.

Speaking after a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Mr Abbas said: “The Palestinians have the right of return and this is an issue we are discussing with the Israelis.

“We are against the resettlement of Palestinians in Lebanon.”

Most of the refugees are Palestinians, and their descendants, who came to Lebanon when the state of Israel was created in 1948.

Mr Abbas is head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and president of the Palestinian Authority which currently runs Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank.

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