‘Syrian refugees should return to safer areas’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s president said on Monday his country could no longer cope with hosting huge numbers of Syrian refugees and called on world powers to help them to return to calmer areas of their troubled homeland.
Michel Aoun (pictured) told international envoys he wanted to work out ways to help refugees return safely to the neighbouring state but he had no plan to force people back to places where they could face persecution.
“My country cannot handle it anymore,” Aoun told representatives of the European Union, the Arab League and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council at a meeting in Beirut, according to his media office.
More than six years into the Syrian war, 1.5 million Syrians account for one quarter of Lebanon’s population and patience is wearing thin with their presence and the strain it has placed on local resources.
As the Syrian government regains control of more territory, calls have increased in Lebanon for Syrians to return home. Aoun told the envoys there were areas of Syria not
currently at war and areas where calm has returned, a media office spokesman said.