Donors' conference opens on south Lebanon
(AFP, BEIRUT) – Lebanon Thursday called on international donors to contribute to both the emergency needs of its southern border strip and to a longer term financial plan to put the area back on its feet after the 22 years of Israeli occupation which ended in May.
“Satisfying the needs of the local people ... would establish stability in Lebanon and the region," Prime Minister Salim Hoss told the opening session of an international donors' conference here, warning that otherwise the whole peace process could be affected.
UN special Middle East envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen told the conference that the United Nations was in "full support" of the conference, and that the international community had to work with Lebanon to "institute a development effort that will provide the basis for long-term growth and stability in the south."
A credible donor mechanism and equally credible recipient mechanism will be necessary to coordinate our efforts at the local and international level, and ensure that our assistance is well-targeted and best serves the needs of the people of southern Lebanon," he said.
He also called for the deployment of UN peacekeepers and the Lebanese armed forces in the border zone, describing it as "crucial to the work that we, in partnership, begin today."
The deployment has been held up because Lebanon says Israel continues to violate the withdrawal line between the two countries established by UN experts.
The Lebanese government wants some $260 million for its initial projects, covering basic services such as electricity, drinking water, telephones, transport, health care and schools, so that those living there will stay, and former residents will be encouraged to return.
They also want to finance the rebuilding of houses destroyed or damaged during the occupation, and to help homeless families.
In addition, the government has drawn up a $1.3 billion five year plan. The plan calls for $991 million to go toward physical infrastructure, $150 million for social and economic development and $191 million for the families of those killed, handicapped or detained under Israeli rule.
Another $8.6 million is geared toward removing the 130,000 mines left by the Israeli army.
The one-day preparatory conference, called to define Lebanon's needs, has brought together ambassadors from 38 countries, and representative of 10 international financial institutions.
Donors are expected to meet in October at a more senior level to make specific financial commitments.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)