President: Lebanon ‘can no longer cope’ with Syrian refugees

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s president says his country “can no longer cope” with the presence of Syrian refugees and appealed to the international community for help to organize their return.

Michel Aoun says the refugees’ return to safe areas in Syria will put an end to their suffering and save Lebanon from negative repercussions.

He specified rising unemployment among the Lebanese. At least 1 million registered Syrian refugees live in Lebanon, almost 25 percent of its population. Many more are believed to live unregistered, straining the country’s already fraying infrastructure.

Aoun spoke on Monday as he met diplomats from the Security Council countries, the European Union and the Arab League.

He says Lebanon doesn’t want to force any returns, but appealed to international organizations not to “frighten” those who want to go home.