France's Macron meets Mikati, army chief in Paris


France President Emmanuel Macron met Friday with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Paris, as fears increased of a regional escalation in the Gaza war. Army chief Joseph Aoun will also join the meeting.

The Paris talks come hours after reports that Israel had carried out revenge strikes on Iran.

Lebanon is grappling with a deep economic and political crisis. That has been compounded by near-daily cross-border fire between Hezbollah and neighboring Israel ever since the Gaza war erupted following the October 7 attack on Israel.

Hezbollah on Thursday said two of its fighters had been killed as Israel appeared to intensify strikes on south Lebanon following an attack by the Iran-backed group that wounded 14 Israeli soldiers.

Fears of a regional conflict have spiked in recent days after Tehran launched its first ever direct military attack on Israel late Saturday in retaliation for an April 1 air strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus widely blamed on Israel.

Lebanon has been without a president for more than a year after ex-head of state Michel Aoun's mandate expired, with its feuding factions repeatedly failing in parliament to elect a new leader.

The multi-confessional former French colony is also in the grips of an unprecedented economic crisis.

Mikati has been prime minister since 2021 but leads a caretaker government with limited powers.

Joseph Aoun, no relation to the country's former president, has good relations with all sides in the country and is sometimes put forward as someone who could lead it out of political deadlock.

Macron has visited the country twice in recent years in a bid to help bring it out of crisis, but then in 2023 assigned the task to former foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

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