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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Lebanon arrests ISIL financial official, as president calls for Arab unity

President Michel Aoun, who was in Iraq on what marked the first visit by a Lebanese head of state, said there must be Arab unity in the fight against terrorists

Iraqi president Fuad Masum (R) and Lebanese president Michel Aoun hold a press conference at Salam Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, on Tuesday. Hadi Mizban / AP
Iraqi president Fuad Masum (R) and Lebanese president Michel Aoun hold a press conference at Salam Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, on Tuesday. Hadi Mizban / AP

Lebanese security forces arrested a man on Wednesday suspected of being a financial official for ISIL in Syria, as Lebanese president Michel Aoun called for Arab unity in the fight against the terrorist group.

Mr Aoun, who was in Iraq on what marked the first visit by a Lebanese head of state, met with Iraqi president Fuad Masum and prime minister Haider Al Abadi to discuss ways to combat terrorism.

"Arab states and the international community must build joint efforts to fight against terrorism in an efficient and radical way, to eliminate them and end the factors that favour terrorist ideology," Mr Aoun said.

Baghdad in December declared victory against ISIL, which at one point had seized control of almost one third of the country.

However, although the military campaign against ISIL has officially ended in Iraq, the extremists continue to pose a threat to the country by carrying attacks in various cities.

Lebanon too has suffered from the insurgents but "succeeded in pushing them back from a border region with Syria", Mr Aoun said on Tuesday in a press conference.

On Wednesday, a Syrian man, arrested in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, was believed to be responsible for collecting money for ISIL in Albu Kamal, a city in eastern Syria, said Lebanon's General Security in a statement carried by the National News Agency.

In November, the Syrian army and its allies recaptured Albu Kamal, ISIL’s last significant town in Syria. Most ISIL members withdrew from the town during the battle.

The arrested man, whom was identified only as Saud, entered Lebanon through a legal border crossing using his brother's identity.

Lebanese authorities say they have disrupted a number of ISIL plots in recent months.

Meanwhile, Mr Aoun said that Beirut supports a strong and united Iraq as the two countries are bound together by the respect for diversity and coexistence.

Following talks with Iraqi officials, Mr Aoun announced that prospects "are promising" as both countries aim to develop plans of co-operation and agreements that serves their interests.

"We had constructive talks which reflect the historical and brotherly ties that link our two countries and our people," he said.

Baghdad's central government is looking to raise tens of billions of dollars to help reconstruct the country after the fight against ISIL and decades of conflict. Mr Aoun announced that Lebanese firms "with their extensive expertise" and investors were ready to get involved.

For Mr Al Abadi, the talks had focused on "strengthening bilateral relations in the areas of economy, trade and reconstruction".

The Iraqi president reportedly surprised his Lebanese counterpart with a birthday cake decorated with the Lebanese and Iraqi flags.

Mr Aoun, a former general and army chief, turned 83 earlier this week.

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