Paris conference pledges $7.6 billion for Lebanon

Lebanon obtained $7.62 billion in aid and loans on Thursday to help it recover from war and enable its U.S.-backed government to weather a growing threat from Hezbollah-led opponents.

Paris conference pledges $7.6 billion for Lebanon
Saudi Arabia headed the list of donors with a promise of $1.1 billion of credits and grants, the United States pledged $770 million and the Arab Monetary Fund and World Bank offered funding of around $700 million apiece.
"I'm going away really pleased with the level of financial support offered today," Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told reporters at the end of the meeting. "This conference is an expression of faith in the Lebanese nation and people."
Even as the promises of aid poured in, there were fresh clashes on the streets of Beirut between pro and anti-government supporters in which four people were killed and 35 injured. Lebanon's efforts to rebuild after its 1975-1990 civil war suffered a serious setback last year when Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas fought a 34-day war that shattered the country's fragile infrastructure. The political situation has since deteriorated, with the Shiite Hezbollah opposition group spearheading increasingly tense protests aimed at ousting Siniora's Sunni-led government.
" The people of Lebanon deserve to live in peace. They deserve to make decisions about their political future free from the threat of violence and free from political intimidation," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the conference.
She later told a news conference: "The future of Lebanon is important not only to the people of Lebanon but also to the future of a troubled region." Lebanon is weighed down by $40 billion of debt, equal to 180 percent of gross domestic product, and Thursday's pledges should ease, but by now means resolve, its financial problems.
France said $730 million of the pledges were donations to Lebanon, while the rest of the money would come in the shape of low interest loans, grants and development aid -- much of it coming with strings attached and due to be handed over in time.
"In spite of past experience, it is now the duty of the Lebanese to prove that they can work together with the international community to bring back what they lost in the strife that they have faced," said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.
Hezbollah has accused Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of being in the pocket of the West and government opponents have said the Paris conference was aimed at maintaining him in power. Donor countries denied that and the new U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the pledges would be vital to rebuilding Lebanon, but flatly added: "This will not be enough."
Ban urged the Lebanese people to seek national reconciliation and to exercise maximum restraint, refrain from violence, and to engage in continuous and sincere dialogue.
The amount pledged on Thursday easily exceeded the $4.2 billion offered at a previous donors' conference for Lebanon in Paris in 2002. On that occasion the United States refused to make any firm commitments, in stark contrast to 2006.
"We will help to defend democracy in Lebanon," Rice said. Some donors said they would link their aid to Siniora's ability to push through a potentially unpopular reform package unveiled this month, which includes plans for privatizations, cutting state spending and hiking taxes.
"Even in times of great despair our determination has never diminished. We have faith in the people of Lebanon," Siniora said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16