Rice Says Aid to Lebanon Will Support Government's Reforms
Washington -- The Bush administration's assistance pledge to Lebanon, now totaling more than $1 billion, will be targeted toward security and economic assistance, and will support the Lebanese government's economic reform program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said January 25. Speaking in Paris at the Lebanon Donors' Conference, where the international community pledged a total of $7.6 billion to help rebuild the country, Rice said the major increase in U.S. support "reflects our steadfast commitment to the Lebanese people, but also our faith in the Lebanese people and their ability to overcome their difficulties."
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington -- The Bush administration’s assistance pledge to Lebanon, now totaling more than $1 billion, will be targeted toward security and economic assistance, and will support the Lebanese government’s economic reform program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said January 25.
Speaking in Paris at the Lebanon Donors’ Conference, where the international community pledged a total of $7.6 billion to help rebuild the country, Rice said the major increase in U.S. support “reflects our steadfast commitment to the Lebanese people, but also our faith in the Lebanese people and their ability to overcome their difficulties.”
A “substantial portion” of the new $770 million in U.S. assistance will be in the form of grants, and Rice said the money will continue U.S. support for security, reconstruction, and development efforts throughout Lebanon. “[M]ost importantly,” Rice said, “our assistance will support the Lebanese government's own ambitious reform program, which demonstrates its commitment to reducing its debt and achieving economic and financial stability.”
She said American businesses are participating in the reconstruction, in areas such as job creation and training, computer technology and the construction of homes, schools and businesses, through public-private partnership programs such as the Overseas Public Investment Corporation.
“This government agency has partnered with Citibank to extend up to $120 million in new financing, through Lebanese banks, for loans to support Lebanese businesses and homeowners,” Rice said, and combined with the government level U.S.-Lebanon Partnership, “these loans will encourage additional private investment and contribute to economic growth.”
The secretary said the United States is “committed to a sovereign, democratic, and prosperous Lebanon,” and called for the full implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which she described as “essential to the security of the region.”
She commended Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s government for the deployment of Lebanese forces in South Lebanon, and applauded the international community’s successful deployment of enhanced U.N. peacekeeping forces.
The people of Lebanon deserve peace, she said. “They deserve to make decisions about their political future free from the threat of violence and free from political intimidation. [And] The United States is dedicated to this task.”
In a press availability with Siniora and U.S. chief executive officers ( CEOs ) involved in the Lebanon Partnership program, Rice said the economic reforms Siniora’s government is pursuing are “critical” to making the aid package work. “[T]hose reforms are making it possible to contemplate contributions of the size that the United States is going to make today and inviting an environment in which business can operate,” she said.
Siniora said the Paris donors’ conference is for the benefit of all Lebanese, “not for any group against other groups and not for one specific government.”
John Chambers, president of computer hardware and software firm Cisco Corporation, said he and his fellow business leaders “have the potential to together do what none of us can do by ourselves: to help every citizen of Lebanon.”
He said he was told by President Bush to listen to Lebanese business leaders and students to hear suggestions and learn what approach to take. Along with Chambers, the CEOs of Intel Corporation, Citigroup, and Ghafari Companies participated in the press availability.
Siniora said his government suggested community centers in public schools as well as libraries connected to the global community through the Internet to help provide learning and job creation opportunities in Lebanon.
Chambers said due to the prime minister’s suggestion, he saw opportunities for his company’s contribution to help the Lebanese government provide health care, education, training, registration and education. “[A]ll of a sudden, instead of saying let's rebuild, you suddenly begin to realize a vision, I think a vision of Lebanon for the future that others would follow,” he said.
In Lebanon, violent protests continued between government and opposition supporters. At the State Department January 25, spokesman Sean McCormack appealed for calm, and said the loss of life in the clashes was “tragic.”
Although McCormack did not assign responsibility for the day’s violence, he said “certain irresponsible parties … have been provoking an atmosphere of confrontation and antagonism within the political system, and the links between those individuals and groups and outside entities are well known.”
However, in Paris the United States and the international community are standing behind those “proposing and implementing the political and economic reforms that are going to make Lebanon a more democratic, prosperous country,” he said.
Siniora “has been a tenacious advocate for freedom and political reform in Lebanon,” and the United States believes “large swaths” of Lebanese support him despite efforts by Syria, Iran and Hezbollah to challenge his government,” McCormack said.
Transcripts of Rice’s remarks at the Lebanon Donors’ Conference, her press availability with Siniora and American CEOS, and her January 24 remarks en route to Paris are available on the State Department Web site.
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