Sweden: Donors Pledge Over $900 Million for Lebanon

Swedish officials say donor countries meeting in Stockholm have pledged more than $900 million in emergency aid to begin rebuilding war-shattered Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora had initially appealed to delegates from 60 governments and aid organizations for $500 million in urgent aid to help post-war recovery.

Speaking Thursday in the Swedish capital, Mr. Siniora said fighting between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia wiped out 15 years of post-civil war redevelopment.

The meeting comes amid growing Western concerns that cash handouts from Hezbollah to Lebanese with homes destroyed or damaged in the month-long war will strengthen the guerrilla movement.

But Mr. Siniora vowed that none of the funds he sought will be distributed by Hezbollah.

He said the war, which ended earlier this month, 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 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 $1 billion in aid. The United States is donating $230 million, including 25,000 tons of wheat and training and equipment for Lebanon's military.

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