Germany pledges USD 28 million for Lebanon aid
31 August 2006, STOCKHOLM - Germany announced a pledge of USD 28 million to help Lebanon at a donor conference Thursday, where the Lebanese prime minister also called for an end to Israel's blockade of the country.
31 August 2006
STOCKHOLM - Germany announced a pledge of USD 28 million to help Lebanon at a donor conference Thursday, where the Lebanese prime minister also called for an end to Israel's blockade of the country.
Addressing the conference, Lebanese prime minister Fouad Seniora said Israel's current air and sea blockade against Lebanon is "humiliating" and threatens efforts to restore the war- torn country.
Both Seniora and Prime Minister Goran Persson of host nation Sweden said they backed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's call that Israel should immediately lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon.
However, at a joint news conference with Seniora, Persson said that "we should not start discussing sanctions (against Israel)," saying it "would send the wrong signal."
The two leaders addressed the one-day donor conference in the Swedish capital, which was aimed at raising some 500 million dollars for Lebanon's immediate needs.
According to Lebanese government assessments, these included temporary housing for some 30,000 families at a cost of 75 million dollars, 4 million dollars for clearing mines and unexploded munitions, and 30 million dollars for restoring roads and bridges.
"This is a bridge that starts with early recovery and ends with reconstruction," Persson said.
At the end of the year, Lebanon was due to host a conference on long-term aid.
In his speech to some 350 delegates representing around 60 countries and organizations, Seniora said the funds were needed to provide "necessary assistance to the hundreds of thousands displaced before winter sets in."
Asked about fears that funds would not reach needy people, Seniora told reporters the funds would be "spent according to the wish of the donors."
The recent conflict claimed 1,100 lives, wounded over 4,000 and displaced 1 million people "or a quarter of our population," he said in his speech.
Seniora said the conflict had also had a major economic impact. "Where we had growth of almost 6 per cent this year, we now have deep recession."
Although critical of Israel's "excessive use of force," the Swedish premier said an inquiry was necessary to establish if it constituted a violation of international law and that was not on the conference agenda.
Persson also criticized Hezbollah's rocket attacks against Israel and its abduction of Israeli soldiers.
Israel was not represented at the conference since it was not a donor, Swedish Foreign Minister Jan Eliasson said, adding that Lebanon was a country "that had paid the heaviest price" as a staging ground for regional rivalries.
According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, 159 Israelis were killed, while some 6,000 homes were hit by Katyusha rockets during the conflict.
Sweden would commit 20 million dollars to Lebanon, including funding efforts to remove unexploded ordnance, Persson said, saying the conference was a signal to the people of Lebanon "that you are not alone."
Other pledges announced included a European Commission aid package worth some 54 million dollars, 28 million dollars from Germany; the Netherlands said it would provide 7.5 million dollars, Ireland said that it would be doubling its total aid to 5 million dollars, Japan pledged 5 million dollars, a sum tied by Belgium, while Finland, current holder of the EU presidency, said it would put up 3.8 million dollars.
Organizers were conducting a "hard exercise in arithmetic" to compile the various pledges, Eliasson said on the sidelines of the conference.
Randall Tobias, head of the US aid agency USAID, said that the US earlier had committed 230 million dollars for "addressing priorities identified by the Lebanese government."
Subject: German news