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U.S. Department of State
96/10/17 Remarks at Reception in Honor of Lebanese Prime Minister
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY October 17, 1996
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
AT HIS RECEPTION
IN HONOR OF LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER RAFIQ AL-HARIRI
Good evening. Prime Minister Hariri, I am pleased to welcome you
to Washington. I have worked closely with the Prime Minister, and know
that he is a highly valued partner in our search for a comprehensive
peace in the Middle East. I am also pleased that so many distinguished
guests could join us tonight.
I want to welcome you especially to Blair House, which is the
President's official guest house. According to Washington lore, the
decision to establish a guest house was made by Eleanor Roosevelt on a
cold December morning in 1941 shortly after Pearl Harbor. Winston
Churchill was visiting the White House to confer with FDR on the Allied
war plans. At six o'clock in the morning, Mrs. Roosevelt found
Churchill, dressed in his robe, pacing excitedly outside the master
bedroom, wanting to talk with the President. Given FDR's poor health,
Mrs. Roosevelt's first thought was to protect her husband's sleep. She
was already upset that Churchill had kept FDR up half the night talking
about the war. At that moment she decided to have the government buy a
separate building for visiting dignitaries.
You might also find interesting the fact that President Truman and
his family lived in Blair House for over three years while the White
House was undergoing a major renovation. During this period Cabinet
meetings were held in the dining room of this house. There the
President and his advisers drafted the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall
Since the establishment of Lebanon in 1943, our two nations have
enjoyed a strong relationship. The strength of our ties has in many
ways derived from the important contributions that Lebanese-Americans
have made to our society. In 1926 the great poet Kahlil Gibran wrote a
message to his fellow Lebanese immigrants in America. He said: "I
believe in you, and I believe in your destiny. I believe that you are
contributors to this new civilization."
And contribute you have, with great distinction in all walks of
American life -- from Senator George Mitchell and my Cabinet colleague
Donna Shalala to the journalist Helen Thomas and the diplomat Philip
Habib, to mention only a few. These and countless other Arab-Americans
of Lebanese descent have made our culture richer and our country
greater. Today the contributions of Lebanese-Americans continue to
strengthen the bonds between our nations.
Tonight I want to reaffirm that the United States supports the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon. We also support
Lebanon's commitment to democratic government and a market economy. We
look forward to the day when Lebanon is free of all foreign forces. We
will press ahead in our effort to achieve a comprehensive regional peace
-- a peace that will enable Lebanon to realize its own national goals.
Prime Minister Hariri, with your leadership, the hard work of your
people, and the support of Lebanon's many friends, your country has made
great strides in its reconstruction. Once again electricity is
plentiful, streets are clean, and schools are open. You have also been
successful in tapping the expertise and resources of the private sector.
The United States will continue to assist Lebanon's efforts to rebuild.
In the coming months, we will be the driving force behind assembling the
Friends of Lebanon, an important international effort to contribute to
the rebuilding process.
As Lebanon rebuilds from its tragic civil war, the United States
is determined to enhance our relationship. We should multiply the
contacts between all levels of our two governments. And we should
increase the ties between our two societies -- in business, education,
and the arts.
In this regard, I know that many of you here this evening are
concerned about U.S. travel restrictions. At present, we have eased
restrictions on airline ticketing and are allowing more family members
to visit Lebanon for humanitarian reasons. We are anxious to lift the
remaining restrictions as soon as conditions permit. Let me assure you
we will keep the matter under regular review, and it will have attention
at the highest levels.
The Middle East has witnessed many hopeful changes during the last
several years -- the recovery of Lebanon among them. Let me share with
you one small but telling sign of Lebanon's progress. During the civil
war, the birds that have traditionally flown over Lebanon altered their
north-south migratory pattern, finding safer routes over other
countries. With the advent of peace, the birds have returned to the
skies of Lebanon. That indeed is a harbinger of things to come.
Thank you very much and welcome.
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