08/31/2006, 00.00
SWEDEN – LEBANON
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In Stockholm Siniora asks donor countries for help

Lebanese Prime Minister slams Israel for using its war machine to crush a country that was on its way to recovery. Lasting peace needs an end to Israel's air and naval blockade and a peaceful treatment of the underlying cause of the crisis.

Stockholm (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In days the war with Israel wiped out Lebanon's recovery from its civil war. This is the sad observation Lebanese Prime Minister made to the delegates at an international donors' conference in Sweden, which is meant to raise funds for the land of the cedar tree laid waste by 34 days of war between Israel and Hezbollah. The Lebanese government has estimated the cost of damage at .6 billion.

Ministers from more than 60 countries are attending the donors' conference and organisers are hoping to raise US$ 500 million.

The funds would go to help the civilian population, rebuild infrastructure, reopen schools, and the kick-started the power grid.

In an impassioned plea to the international community, Siniora urged the United Nations Security Council to take the lead in the search of lasting peace in the Middle East. His speech becomes harsher when he spoke of Israel's responsibilities.

"Lebanon's well-known achievements in 15 years of post-war development have been wiped out in a matter of days by Israel's deadly military machine," he said, adding that if Israel does not lift its "humiliating siege" on Lebanon, withdraw immediately from the positions it still occupies in the south, "the recovery process of Lebanon will be severely undermined."

In his opinion, a broader peaceful solution can only come when Israel recognises the rights of the Palestinians to return and to their own independent state in accordance with UN resolutions, and withdraws from all occupied Arab territories in Lebanon, Gaza, Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. This will guarantee Israel peace with its neighbours.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown Mark Malloch Brown said that for the good of Lebanon there should be an immediate end to the blockade and a political solution to the underlying causes of the conflict.

Fears that the war might start up again is in fact giving private investors cold feet. They are backbone of the economy.

According to the Lebanese authorities the war destroyed or seriously damaged 15,000 houses, 80 bridges and 94 roads.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have respectively pledged US$ 500 and 800 million.

The European Union has already promised US$ 50 million for short-term recovery.

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