Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora is calling on the United States to do more to help rebuild his war-torn country after 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants.
Mr. Siniora told reporters Wednesday that the United States can do more both financially and politically to help Lebanon recover, particularly in pressuring Israel to end its land, sea and air blockade of the country.
"I believe the United States can do more on the level of financial assistance, but the United States can do much more on the level of political support to Lebanon," he said. "I think the United States can really support us in putting real pressure on Israel to lift the siege and to make sure that other countries can, as well, provide further assistance to Lebanon financially and politically. I believe that the United States can and should do more assistance to Lebanon on these fronts."
Israel has said it will not end its blockade until international peacekeepers are deployed to South Lebanon to assist Lebanese troops in preventing Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel.
On Monday, President Bush announced he was increasing reconstruction and security assistance to Lebanon to $230 million. The aid package includes money for rebuilding bridges and roads, 25,000 tons of wheat, $42 million to help equip the Lebanese army, and assistance in clearing an oil slick from a bombed power station. The president said the United States is making a long-term commitment to help the people of Lebanon.
The Lebanese prime minister said he is considering all options to find funding to rebuild his country's shattered infrastructure. Lebanese officials have estimated damages at $3.6 billion, including 15,000 housing units, 80 bridges and 94 roads destroyed or damaged.
Meanwhile, Lebanese officials say three Lebanese soldiers were killed Wednesday as they tried to clear unexploded Israeli shells in southern Lebanon. Earlier in the day, the Israeli army confirmed that one of its soldiers was killed in south Lebanon and several others wounded when they stepped on an Israeli land mine.