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Siniora Arrives in Paris for Lebanon Aid Conference


Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has arrived in Paris ahead of a Thursday conference on aid for the country's struggling economy.

Mr. Siniora hopes to raise around $5 billion to ease Lebanon's debt burden of more than $40 billion and to help pay for current services.

More than 30 donor countries and international aid institutions are expected to attend the Paris conference.

The European Commission pledged almost $400 million in assistance Wednesday to support reform efforts and economic recovery. Separately, France has pledged $650 million in loans to Lebanon.

Meanwhile, pro- and anti-government factions exchanged gunfire Wednesday in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. The clash came during the funeral for a man killed in a violent general strike against the government on Tuesday.

The Hezbollah-led opposition called the one-day general strike on Tuesday in an attempt to topple the government.

Police say three people were killed and more than 170 others wounded in clashes across the country during the strike.

The confrontation between the pro-Western government, led by Mr. Siniora, and the pro-Syrian opposition, led by Shi'ite Hezbollah, has polarized Lebanese politics. Shi'ite Muslims largely support the position of Hezbollah while Sunnis back Mr. Siniora.

Lebanon is also struggling to recover from a crippling war between Israel and Hezbollah during July and August of 2006.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.