BEIRUT (CWN)5.6.1997 - Lebanon's prime minister said on Monday that he welcomed Pope John Paul's visit this weekend for the attention it will draw to the country's efforts at rebuilding after the 1975-90 civil war.

Prime Minister Rafik Hariri added that the Holy Father's presence will not appease the major concern of Lebanese Christians -- Syria's 40,000 soldiers in the country who Hariri says are needed to maintain security.

"The Syrians are playing a role of stability. ... We shouldn't forget a few years ago where we have been and where we are now. The Syrians play a very positive role to make this happen," he told The Associated Press.

Hariri commented that the major reason for the Holy Father's visit is as a response to a 1995 synod of Lebanese bishops which called for the removal of Syrian troops as well as Israeli troops occupying southern Lebanon.

"The Pope's visit is very important. It gives more recognition to Lebanon, more confidence to the Lebanese among themselves and their country, about their future," said Hariri, who has twice visited the Vatican.