|Saudi king assures Siniora of postwar help
|Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora briefed King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia Sunday on the latest developments in Lebanon and received assurances of support from the monarch, Saudi officials said.
Siniora met with Abdullah in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah and discussed the economic impact of the 34-day war, the officials said on condition of anonymity. The king said Saudi Arabia remained committed in its support for Lebanon until its complete recovery from the devastation of the war, which began on July 12.
Saudi Arabia has donated $500 million to help Lebanon rebuild from the massive devastation wrought by the fighting. It has also deposited $1 billion at Lebanon's Central Bank to support the country's war-shattered economy.
For his part, Siniora described his trip as "extremely significant" as it was the prime minister's first trip abroad since the end of the war. Siniora added that the trip was " to present thanks to King Abdullah and the Saudi people for their solidarity with Lebanon" during the Israeli offensive, a statement from the premier's office quoted him as saying.
Siniora discussed with King Abdullah the steps that Lebanon will undertake to achieve a "complete Israeli withdrawal, a permanent cease-fire and addressg the issue of the Shebaa Farms," the statement said.
Diplomats in Riyadh say there is a tussle for influence in Lebanon between Iran, which backs Hizbullah, and Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.
Lebanese officials have estimated that five weeks of Israeli attacks caused some $3.6 billion in damage. Saudi billionaire Saleh Kamel said on Saturday a group of Arab investors had launched a campaign to raise $2 billion for reconstruction and aid.
Beirut has won pledges of billions of dollars in aid, mainly from wealthy oil-producing Arab states.
"We hope the total number of donations will reach $2 billion during Ramadan," he said of Islam's fasting month, which starts late in September. "We are launching a media campaign next week to urge Muslims, non-Muslims and people from all religions to take part and contribute with their money to revive the Lebanese economy."
Sheikh Saleh said the money would be allocated to emergency aid such as food and school tuition, as well as long-term loans to individuals, small businesses and other institutions, including government bodies.
The Daily Star