Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Siniora adds trio of Gulf states to basket of donors pledging to 'participate' in Paris III

Siniora adds trio of Gulf states to basket of donors pledging to 'participate' in Paris III
By Rym Ghazal
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Monday secured commitments from three Arab donors - Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE - to pledge aid at the upcoming Paris III conference. Siniora succeeded in garnering the support of all six countries he visited over the past few days as part of a regional tour ahead of the conference in Paris on January 25 to raise economic aid for Lebanon. "Kuwait will participate in providing aid to Lebanon through the conference along with other Arab and friendly countries," Siniora told reporters on Monday after a meeting with Kuwaiti officials. Siniora held talks with Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah and Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah on Lebanon's crisis and mediation efforts. "Our Arab friends understand the great turmoil that has plagued Lebanon for the past 30 years, from wars to invasions to clashes to the latest aggressions by Israel that led to great human losses and infrastructure damages worth more than $10 billion," said Siniora. Siniora and his delegation of ministers - Finance Minister Jihad Azour, Economy and Trade Minister Sami Haddad and Culture Minister Tarek Mitri - had visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Oman prior to Kuwait. The premier reiterated that the internal crisis between the government and the Hizbullah-led opposition should be resolved through dialogue. "We are not just hoping to resolve this deadlock, but are determined to resolve our problems through dialogue," Siniora told a news conference, adding that "there is no other choice but dialogue for ending the crisis." "We have to remove all barriers to ensure that all Lebanese people feel at peace in their own country," Siniora said.

The donor conference is expected to be attended by Western countries and oil-rich Arab states that back Siniora's government and its elected anti-Syrian parliamentary majority. Lebanese Finance Minister Jihad Azour also signed an agreement for two loans totaling $208 million with the Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development. The two soft loans will be used for the reconstruction of South Lebanon, which was devastated by the summer 2006 war. On Monday, Siniora met with Bahrain's king, Hamad Bin Issa Al-Khalifa, and officials from the government. As The Daily Star went to print, Siniora had arrived in Abu Dhabi and was set to meet with the heads of state there. The United Arab Emirates is his last stop on his tour before he heads back to Lebanon.

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