Vatican City: Lebanon will “pay the cost” of the Syrian conflict, a top Roman Catholic cardinal said in an interview.

“Where do the refugees go? The Christians go to Christian homes in Lebanon, the Druze go to Druze homes in Lebanon, the Alawites go to their relatives [in Lebanon],” said Jean-Louis Tauran, who was secretary of state under pope John Paul II.

“This country already has the problem of Palestinian refugees, those from the civil war of the 1980s, and now those from Syria,” the 70-year-old French cardinal added in the interview on Friday.

More than 500,000 Syrians fleeing the conflict have sought refuge in Lebanon, which is increasingly being sucked into the war.

“Lebanon will pay the cost. I’ve said that since the start” of the conflict, now in its third year, said the cardinal, who as the most senior cardinal in the order of deacons had the honour of announcing the election of Pope Francis in March.

“We have always said, save Lebanon in order to save the Christians, and not save the Christians to save Lebanon. It has a heritage of inter-faith dialogue and conviviality.”

Syria dominated Lebanon politically and militarily for 30 years until 2005, and continues to exercise significant influence through its allies.

On Friday, the Lebanese army warned a plot was being hatched to embroil Lebanon in the Syrian war.