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Obama meets Rai, promises to protect Lebanon

(Retrieved from The Daily Star on September 11, 2014)

BEIRUT: U.S. President Barack Obama would work on protecting Lebanon from regional turmoil, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said Thursday after meeting the U.S. president.

“Obama promised us to work on protecting Lebanon from all the repercussions of what is happening in the region,” Rai told LBCI television station. “We felt that Obama is concerned about the region and the danger posed by ISIS and wants to support the region and minorities through an action plan he is working on.”

Rai and a delegation of Eastern church patriarchs met Obama after attending a three-day conference in Washington on protecting the Christian presence in the Levant in the face of mounting threats posed to the community by ISIS and other takfiri groups in Syria and Iraq. ISIS forced thousands of Christians to leave their towns and villages after taking over large swathes of northern Iraq in June.

Rai said he raised important issues with Obama, including the presidential deadlock and support for the Lebanese Army which is combatting terrorism.

"We felt that Lebanon is present in the mind and thoughts of Obama and that he is aware of our problems and the danger posed by ISIS in the region," said the head of the Maronite church.

Rai added that the U.S. president highlighted the importance of Christians returning to their towns and villages in Iraq and Syria.

“We focused on the tragedy, on the need to come up with a solution and eradicate takfiri groups and the return of Christians and paying them compensations."