French aid to Lebanon linked to political deadlock

French Development and Francophony Minister Annick Girardin (C) surrounded by students in a classroom during a visit to a Syrian refugee camp on March 22, 2015 in Sidon, Lebanon (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Zayyat) (AFP)

Beirut (AFP) - A presidential vacuum and deadlocked institutions are impeding 166 million euros ($182 million) in French development aid to Lebanon, a French minister said on Monday.

"There are 166 million euros waiting until Lebanon's institutions are operating normally and are capable of dealing with different situations, as well as the speedy election of a president," French Development and Francophony Minister Annick Gerardin said.

Concluding a three-day visit to Lebanon, she told a news conference her meetings with Lebanese officials had aimed to show "French solidarity with Lebanon in the face of the latter's refugee crisis".

The country currently hosts roughly 1.2 million Syrian refugees and has called for international aid to help.

France's ambassador to Beirut, Patrice Paoli, said the aid had been earmarked for projects in education, water purification "and loans for companies in the field of renewal energy".

Gerardin said Paris had already delayed the delivery of the funds once in 2014.

"After June 2015, we will not be able to guarantee the funding if there is no institutional response," she said.

An embassy source told AFP that implementing the aid-funded projects would face obstacles including the need for approval from multiple ministries and decisions by Lebanon's cabinet and parliament.

Since Michel Sleiman's term as president ended in May 2014, Lebanon has been without a head of state.

Although the cabinet has assumed presidential responsibilities, political deadlock -- particularly over the crisis in neighbouring Syria -- has left many state institutions frozen.