Lebanon aid pledges top $940m

International donors have pledged more than $940 million for the
reconstruction of Lebanon, nearly double the amount originally sought.

Fuad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, expressed his “great
appreciation” to the donor countries meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.

He added that the conference had been successful “not just in terms of
show of support of solidarity… but also in the pledges that have been
made that show the Lebanese people are not alone”.

In a report to the conference earlier on Thursday, the Lebanese
government had said at least $540 million was needed to help the country
recover from the month-long fighting between Israel and Hezbollah

Jan Eliasson, the Swedish foreign minister, dismissed suggestions that
the aid money would trickle down to Hezbollah, the Shia militia group,
and strengthen its position in southern Lebanon.

“I don’t accept that argument,” Eliasson said before the meeting. “This
conference aims at strengthening the central government of Lebanon and
in that government Hezbollah is only a minor part.”

The war, which ended after a UN-brokered ceasefire on August 14, has
left large sections of southern Lebanon and whole neighbourhoods south
of Beirut in ruins.

An estimated one million people fled their homes during the fighting
while 1,100 Lebanese and more than 150 Israelis also died.

The Lebanese government, along with the UN Development Programme, has
identified a list of early recovery efforts, including finding housing
for displaced families, rebuilding the local infrastructure, improving
social services and clearing unexploded ordnance.

Some research has estimated that up to 70 per cent of Israeli bombs
failed to explode.

The Lebanese report said more than 50 people had been killed by such
munitions after the ceasefire and that more than 4,000 pieces of
unexploded ordnance had been destroyed.

Fighting started on July 12 after fighters from Hezbollah crossed the
Israeli-Lebanon border at Aita al-Shaab, killed three Israeli soldiers
and seized two others.



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