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SEPTEMBER 21, 1998

Monaco to help Beirut

PRINCE ALBERT of Monaco has told Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Al-Hariri that the Monaco authorities will help in any way they can in the organization of a Grand Prix in Beirut in the year 2003. The Prince was in Beirut on a four-day official visit last week and had meetings with Al Hariri to discuss future trade and relations between Monaco and Lebanon. As Monaco has been running a successful street race for the last 60 years the experience of the officials would obviously be of great value to the Lebanese as they plan to lay out a racing circuit on the city streets.

The intention is to run the race in downtown Beirut, between the hills of Al-Ashrafiyah in East Beirut and Al-Musaytibah in West Beirut. Between 1952 and 1975 this area was the banking center for the Arab world and the city was a major tourist destination. The heaviest fighting in the 15-year civil war took place in the area and most of the old downtown was destroyed.

Al-Hariri hopes to transform Beirut into "a financial, commercial and cultural center for the Arab World" and is aiming to build a glittering district, around Martyrs's Square - the center of the old town. Large areas have been flattened and there are plans for wide boulevards and parkland, leading down to the port area.

The race is understood to be an integral part of the plan to improve the image of the city and attract both tourists and big companies.