Lebanon wants UN to facilitate return of Syrian refugees

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Lebanon wants UN to facilitate return of Syrian refugees
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil pauses during a press conference at a Syrian refugee camp, in Arsal, near the border with Syria, east Lebanon, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. A public spat between the Lebanese government and the United Nation's refugee agency deepened Wednesday as Lebanon's caretaker foreign minister kept up his criticism, accusing the agency of discouraging Syrian refugees from returning home. Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrian refugees, or about a quarter of the country's population, putting a huge strain on the economy. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister is threatening to increase pressure on the U.N. refugee agency if it does not change its policies, which he says discourage Syrian refugees from returning to their country.

Gibran Bassil made his comments in Geneva following a meeting with Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, days after the Lebanese official ordered a freeze on the renewal of residency permits for UNHCR staff.

Bassil said he is ready to lift the measures “if I see tangible steps,” adding that he is also ready to take further steps if things continue as they are.

Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrian refugees, or about a quarter of the country’s population, putting a huge strain on the economy.