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Israeli bombing 'wiped out 15 years of progress in Lebanon'
The Telegraph (UK)
August 31, 2006

Lebanon's prime minister has said his country needs help from the world after Israeli bombing wiped out "15 years of postwar development" in a month of fighting with Hizbollah guerrillas.

About 60 governments and aid organizations are meeting in Stockholm hoping to raise £262 million ($500 million) to help Lebanon rebuild roads, bridges and homes left shattered by the war.

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora strongly rejected suggestions that the aid money would trickle down to Hizbollah and strengthen the group's position in southern Lebanon.

He said: "This idea, that it will be siphoned in one way or another to Hizbollah is entirely, completely, a fallacy. It is not true."

Hizbollah is already offering hundreds of millions of dollars in aid - most of it apparently promised by Iran. And there are fears in the West that, unless donor countries provide significant amounts, sympathy for Hizbollah, Iran and Islamic radicals will grow dramatically as a result.

Earlier, in his opening speech, Mr Saniora told delegates that the direct damage of the conflict was in the "billions of dollars," while the indirect cost including lost tourism and industry revenue would cost billions more.

"Moreover, Lebanon's well-known achievements in 15 years of postwar development have been wiped out in a matter of days by Israel's deadly military machine," he said.

He said reconstruction efforts would be "severely undermined" if Israel did not lift its sea, air and land blockade of Lebanon.

"It should really lift the blockade that is inhuman," Mr Saniora said, urging all nations to support his call.

Israel has said it would only allow free movement after the UN-brokered ceasefire deal that halted the fighting takes full effect.

But Mark Malloch Brown. the UN Deputy Secretary-General. urged Israel to immediately lift the blockade saying it was hampering relief efforts in Lebanon.

"Aid when there is a blockade is like putting someone on life support when there is a foot on their wind pipe," he said in a speech to delegates.

Early recovery efforts would focus on finding housing for displaced families, rebuilding infrastructure, improving social services, cleaning up an oil spill of Lebanon's coast and clearing unexploded ordnance.

Lebanese Economy Minister Sami Haddad said the most urgent need was 10,000 prefabricated houses for families whose homes were destroyed by Israeli bombing.

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