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French PM, FM to Beirut Monday
ARIS, July 17 (KUNA) -- French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy are traveling to Beirut on Monday to express the solidarity of France with the Lebanese government and people, it was officially announced here.
The mission was ordered by President Jacques Chirac who has expressed criticism of the Israeli overreaction to Hezbollah attacks against Israeli military forces, attacks that sparked the latest round of violence.
Chirac, who has also criticized Hezbollah and called for the release of the two Israeli soldiers taken prisoner a week ago by the Lebanese resistance group, said last Friday that the Israeli reaction was "completely disproportionate" and he said he wondered if Israel was not bent on destroying Lebanon.
Chirac has also questioned the ability of Lebanon to function as a sovereign state, given the existence of armed militias like Hezbollah.
Such groups are destined to be disarmed and dismantled in line with UN Resolution 1559, which led to the departure of Syrian forces from Lebanon.
France is expected to begin evacuating nationals and dual nationals Monday from Lebanon and a ferry has been sent from Cyprus for this purpose. Planes have also been chartered to take evacuees back to France from Cyprus and some people who managed to get out have already been brought back to France.