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World News

On Lebanon, Macron told Trump sanctions can play into Iran's hands, official says

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his speech during a news conference, following Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area, in Beirut, Lebanon August 6, 2020. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron has told U.S. President Donald Trump that U.S. sanctions that have targeted Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah are playing into the hands of those they are meant to weaken, including Iran, an Elysee official said on Saturday.

The official, speaking ahead of a donors conference on aid to Lebanon co-hosted by France in which Trump will take part, said Macron told Trump in a phone call on Friday that the United States should “reinvest” in Lebanon to help rebuild it.

Washington has sought to choke off Hezbollah’s funding worldwide, with sanctions among a slew of steps against Tehran since Trump withdrew last year from a 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran.

“He told him that in the case of Lebanon, the fact is that the policy of pressure or abstention from the United States and some Gulf countries could actually play into the hands of those they are targeting, Iran and Hezbollah,” the official said.

“So it was an invitation to President Trump to reinvest the Lebanese question, because the situation is serious and we should not abandon Lebanon to those the United States are meant to target through their sanction policy,” he added.

Trump has said he will take part in Sunday’s conference. So too will British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the king of Jordan, representatives of China and Russia and the World Bank, among others.

Israel and Iran will not be involved due to geopolitical issues, the official said.

The French official declined to put a figure on how much the conference hoped to raise, but said money was needed to rebuild Beirut, supply food aid, rebuild schools and hospitals and deliver medical equipment.

“Lebanon is sinking. We have hit rock bottom, many Lebanese think so. We are here to help Lebanon rise back to the surface.”

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Frances Kerry

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