(AFP, BEIRUT) - Nasser Saidi, Lebanon's minister of national economy and trade, said Monday that his country urgently needed $260 million to rebuild the southern zone vacated by Israel.
Speaking three days before a donors meeting in Beirut, Saidi stressed that the aid not be tied to any conditions, such as the Lebanese army's redeployment into the former Israeli zone.
"The goal of the meeting, which will be held at ambassadorial level, is to bring the international community to support the Lebanese government in its projects aimed at addressing urgent needs, with an estimated cost of $260 million" Saidi said.
He said Lebanon had around $200 million already available: a $100 million line of credit and $50 million in the form of a gift from the Islamic Development Bank and $50 million from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, plus gifts from Kuwait and Qatar.
Lebanon has already devoted $35 million toward the reconstruction of damaged homes and six million for the distribution of drinking water, Saidi said.
Yves de Saens of the UN Development Program said the donors meeting Thursday had "a strategic, symbolic and practical value in that the international community brings support to a region occupied for 22 years."
Hari Parsad, the World Bank representative in Lebanon, said he hoped Beirut would receive the administrative support to run planned projects technically and administratively.
Saidi said the European Union will at first be in charge of rehabilitation of former Israeli-held prisoners and their relatives, along with demining operations.
He also said aid should not be linked to Lebanon's redeployment in zone Israel held until May 24.
Lebanon has accused the Israelis of continued border violations, which UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said Monday have now been rectified.
"Countries hope for the army's deployment, but the government is waiting for the elimination of Israeli encroachments of the international border in order to establish its sovereignty in the zone in its manner," Saidi said.
Lebanon plans a second larger donors conference in October, for which the United States, France, Italy and Saudi Arabia have already said they would take part.
Prime Minister Salim Hoss has warned against hopes being raised too high for the Thursday conference, which will only include ambassadors based in Beirut.
Saidi said he would also present the ambassadors with his government's five-year, $1.3-billion redevelopment plan.
The plan calls for $991 million to go toward physical infrastructure, $150 million for social and economic development, along with $191 million for the families of those killed, handicapped or detained under Israeli rule so they can rebuilt their homes.
Another $8.6 million dollars is geared toward removing the 130,000 mines left by the Israeli army
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )