Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has appealed to international donors for a half billion dollars in urgent financial aid to help his country recover from the devastating war between Israel and Hezbollah.
Mr. Siniora said 15 years of post-civil war redevelopment had been wiped out in fighting between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia. He was addressing delegates from 60 governments and aid organizations at a donors conference in Stockholm.
Today's conference is taking place amid growing Western concerns that cash handouts from Hezbollah to those Lebanese whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the month-long war will strengthen the guerrilla movement.
But Mr. Siniora vowed that none of the funds he is seeking will be distributed by Hezbollah.
He said the war, which ended earlier this month, has cost his country billions of dollars in lost revenue from tourism, agriculture and industry.
Mr. Siniora also repeated warnings that Lebanon's reconstruction will be severely undermined if Israel does not lift its air, sea and land blockade of the country. Israel has said the blockade will continue until United Nations peacekeepers are in place in southern Lebanon.
The European Union said today it will contribute 54 million dollars to help Lebanon. Most of the 25 EU member states are expected to pledge additional funds.
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait previously have promised more than a billion dollars in aid. The United States is donating 230 million dollars, including 25,000 tons of wheat and training and equipment for Lebanon's military.
Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.