Pope calls for 'greater aid' for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis called on Friday for greater humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and surrounding countries, following a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman at the Vatican.

"The huge number of Syrian refugees who have sought refuge in Lebanon and the neighbouring countries gives rise to particular concern... and greater humanitarian aid is called for," the Vatican said in a statement following the meet.

The United Nations in mid-April said Lebanon was housing 400,000 Syrians who have fled the conflict, now in its third year, which has killed more than 70,000 people. Those fleeing war-ravaged Syria included a quarter of a million children, the Vatican noted.

At the meeting, the Pontiff and Mr Sleiman also discussed the "delicate situation of Christians throughout the Middle East".

Christians in the region have felt under threat from the rise of political Islam following the Arab Spring. They have been uneasy about showing support for rebels against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and the secular Baathists who have largely safeguarded freedom of belief.

Pope Francis and Mr Sleiman also discussed their hopes for "the quick and fruitful resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which is ever more necessary for peace and stability in the region".

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