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Lebanon hopes conference will stave off debt crisis

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Lebanon hopes conference will stave off debt crisis


Lebanon’s dire financial situation is the focus of a conference in Paris today. Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora is hoping French president Jacques Chirac and other donors will not be put off by this week’s unrest in his country.

The European Union is putting a major contribution into the rescue package. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is bringing support from Washington.

Lebanon’s crippling debt amounts to more that 180 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Just servicing the debt mountain costs more than 40 billion dollars a year. Donors want Siniora to undertake serious economic and fiscal reforms.

Prime Minister Siniora said: “Your support adds to our determination to protect our freedom, enhance our democracy and cosolidate our independence.”

The war last year laft many parts of south Lebanon and Beirut in ruins. Much of the country’s infrastructure was wrecked by Israeli bombing. Shiite neighbourhoods were devastated.

Siniora remains under pressure from the opposition including Hezbollah who insist an overhaul of the government is needed for reforms and reconstruction to happen.

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