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Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1415

Senator SIBRAA —Can the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs inform the Senate of the latest position regarding the Lebanese Embassy in Canberra, which I believe has been occupied by a Lebanese protest group? What assistance can the Government provide so that the Lebanese Embassy can resume its normal functions?

Senator GARETH EVANS —As honourable senators will know, on 3 May the Lebanese Embassy in Canberra was occupied by members of the Lebanese community in Australia. The Lebanese Consulates-General in Sydney and Melbourne have also been occupied. Similar actions have taken place at the same time in other countries, including Belgium, France and Canada. The people involved have declared that their actions are intended to bring attention to the current situation in Lebanon, in particular the recent fighting between Moslem and Christian militia and their concern with the position of the Christian community in the south.

Officers of the Australian Federal Police have been present at the Embassy since the occupation and the Department of Foreign Affairs has discussed the situation with the Lebanese Ambassador. The Ambassador has been offered any assistance which might be practicable, but to date he has not sought assistance. I say finally that, while the Government understands very well the concerns which have motivated members of the Lebanese community, it simply cannot condone the occupation of an embassy. The Ambassador has been informed of our wish that the occupation should cease quickly and peacefully to allow the Embassy and the Consulates-General to resume their normal functions.