After 19 years of strife and internal struggles that destroyed the entire nation’s infrastructure, Lebanon’s reconstruction work is under way but the country is still in need of assistance from abroad, including Japan, the new Lebanese ambassador to Japan said Tuesday.

During a visit to The Japan Times, Jaafar Moawi said a large part of Lebanon’s economic and social infrastructure has already been restored or rebuilt after being damaged during the conflict and that the comprehensive development process is still under way. He said he wants to see the modern reconstruction work make Beirut one of the most important capitals of the Middle East, as it was before fighting broke out in 1975.

After arriving in Tokyo in August on his first diplomatic assignment here, Moawi said he wants to increase and improve relations with Japan, starting first with cultural links, and build a “permanent bridge” between the two countries through strengthened cultural relations.

Moawi, who is also Lebanon’s representative in other Far East nations, hopes to present Japan’s younger generations with a more representative image of his country, which is rich in culture and archaeological assets stretching back 6,000 years. He also looks forward to presenting modern Lebanon, which is an “open and liberal society.”

The ambassador said he hopes to bring to Japan a variety of Lebanese art, music and other cultural programs beginning next year, although at present he is busy meeting and making friends with government officials and Japanese people.

He said he is pleased that between November and January, 40 small groups of Japanese will visit Lebanon on tours organized by two Japanese travel agencies, in addition to the many individual travelers who visit his homeland.

He pointed out that before 1975 there were 1,600 Japanese living in Beirut, where many major Japanese companies had representative offices. He added that although Japanese are slowly beginning to return to Lebanon as visitors, peace throughout the country is needed to attract more people to Beirut.

Moawi, who was involved in the Middle East peace talks in Washington for three years, said Lebanon and the Middle East in general both desire and need peace, adding that Lebanon — which, he said, is more interested in peace than any other country — has been waiting for more then 20 years for Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon under United Nations Security Council Resolution 425, issued in 1978.

Referring to the Middle East peace process, he said Lebanon is committed to achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace, in accordance with the Madrid Peace Conference principles, adding that peace is indeed possible and it would be to the benefit of all parties.

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