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Efforts Begin to Rebuild Lebanon


Lebanese officials say the month-long fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas wiped out much of the infrastructure built during 15 years of reconstruction, following the end of the country's civil war. At a recent donors conference, nations pledged nearly $1 billion to help rebuild the country and specialists are focusing on both the short and long-term needs of the Lebanese people.

U.S. aid officials estimate about 250,000 people remain displaced in Lebanon and the United Nations says about 15,000 homes were destroyed in the fighting.

The Director of Energy and Water at the World Bank, Jamal Saghir, says basic needs such as food, clean water, health care and shelter, as well as services such as electricity, must be the first priorities to help people in the battle zone.

"We need to focus on bringing stability to the social system, particularly in the conflict area. Bringing stability to the people and the social system is very important because they return to their villages with nothing, except their dignity and their poverty," said Saghir.

William Garvelink of the U.S. Agency for International Development says aid workers are beginning to remove unexploded ordinance so people can return safely to what is left of their villages in southern Lebanon.

Garvelink says the United States has spent about $55 million delivering humanitarian aid and is also focusing on efforts to improve the devastated economy.

"We are focused on small scale businessmen and helping them get their business up and running and get local economies moving again," he said.

Troops that are part of the U.N. multi-national peacekeeping force have begun to arrive in Lebanon to monitor the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

The U.N. Security Council has approved a resolution for the expansion of the U.N. force already in southern Lebanon to 15,000 soldiers. The resolution stresses the Lebanese government must take control over all its territory and disarm Hezbollah.

Patricia Karam, a senior program officer at the U.S. Institute of Peace, says the peacekeepers and the government in Beirut are not likely to be successful in removing weapons from Hezbollah fighters.

"Hezbollah is unlikely to stop insisting that its forces have an important role to play in defending the country," said Karam. "At the same time any attempt by the Lebanese Army or by any U.N. multi-national force to disarm Hezbollah, especially in light of the movement's new political standing in the area, is risky."

U.S. officials estimate Hezbollah receives about $100 million in support from Iran, which supplies weapons to the group by transporting them through Syria.

A Middle East analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East policy, David Schenker, says he believes Damascus will continue efforts to undermine Lebanon's democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

"I think most importantly, the idea of democracies on the Syrian border, we have seen that they have taken steps, primarily in Iraq, but also in Lebanon to undermine this," noted Schenker. "They want to undermine the Siniora government. They do not want the increased pressure of having pro-Western regimes on their border."

Schenker says while there is no political solution in sight to the conflict between Israel and that reconstruction will work," he continued. "I do not think that requires some sort of broader regional framework of peace for it to be sustainable. Ultimately, it probably will need peace. Otherwise, every ten years Lebanon will be destroyed."

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says he hopes the U.N.-mediated ceasefire that ended the war could be the basis for a long-term peace accord.

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