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Lebanon's Siniora: War Damage Will Cost Billions to Repair

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has appealed to international donors in Stockholm for urgent financial aid to help his country recover from the devastating conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

Mr. Siniora says Israel's military offensive against Hezbollah caused billions of dollars in direct damage to Lebanon's economy, sending the country from recovery into recession.

Mr. Siniora was addressing senior officials from more than 40 nations at today's (Thursday's) conference, which organizers hope will raise 500 million dollars in short-term aid for Lebanon's reconstruction.

The Lebanese prime minister says the war also will cost his country billions of dollars in lost revenue from tourism, agriculture and industry.

Sweden's foreign minister (Jan Eliasson) says the goal of the aid conference is to strengthen the Lebanese government so that is has full control of the country.

Mr. Siniora warned delegates that Lebanon's reconstruction will be severely undermined if Israel does not lift its air, sea and land blockade of the country.

Israel has said the blockade will continue until U.N. peacekeepers can enforce an arms embargo against Hezbollah.

The European Union says it will contribute 54 million dollars today to help Lebanon, and most of the EU's 25 member states are expected to pledge additional funds.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait previously have promised more than a billion dollars in aid to Lebanon, which has received other humanitarian shipments already. The United States is donating 230 million dollars, including 25 thousand tons of wheat and training and equipment for Lebanon's military.

The money raised in Stockholm today will provide temporary housing for tens of thousands of Lebanese whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged during the 34-day war.

Other aid priorities include rebuilding damaged roads and bridges and restoring electricity and water supplies. Lebanon also is asking for help in clearing away landmines and unexploded cluster bombs, which have killed or injured scores of people since the fighting stopped.

Senior officials from Europe, the United States, Asia and the Middle East are in Stockholm for the donors' conference. Also attending are representatives from the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the Red Cross and World Health Organization.