US pledges $770m to Lebanon

Aid comes to Siniora in Paris as Nasrallah labels his government a "clique".

    Nasrallah says the government is nothing more
    than a clique [Reuters]

    The money must be first approved by congress but comes on top of about $230m pledged by the US for Lebanon last year, and about $520m of extra aid announced by the EU on Wednesday ahead of the Paris conference.

    Peaceful desire

    Meanwhile Nasrallah dismissed the government as a clique and said "what has so far prevented the fall of this clique that is clinging to power is not international support but the patriotic feelings of the opposition and its desire to preserve civil peace".

    Speaking to supporters in Beirut, Nasrallah said: "The opposition has the political, popular and organisational strength to bring down the unconstitutional government tomorrow or the day after."

    Hezbollah and its opposition allies have been mounting a round-the-clock protest outside the cabinet's Beirut offices since December 1, demanding its replacement by a government of national unity.

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    The opposition, along with Emile Lahoud, the president, and Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker, says the cabinet has been in violation of power-sharing arrangements, introduced after the 1975-90 civil war, since the resignation of six ministers in November.

    Lebanese sources said on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia and Iran were negotiating a deal to end Beirut's political standoff, after clashes this week that killed three people.

    Siniora has arrived in the French capital, where he hopes to shore up international support, and was greeted by Jacques Chirac, the French president.

    More violence

    A spokesman for the French presidency said after the meeting Chirac had pledged to loan $650m to Lebanon.

    Among other things, the money will fund budget support, military equipment and projects to help rebuild Lebanese infrastructure shattered during last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah.

    Lebanon is clearing up after a
    day of violence [AFP]

    "Yesterday's events, if anything, make more important a message from the international community that it supports the democratically elected government of Lebanon and that there should not be violence or efforts at intimidation to try and make governing more difficult for the prime minister," Rice said.

    Meanwhile in northern Lebanon, a day after the general strike, government supporters and opposition followers exchanged fire, witnesses said on Wednesday.
     
    Security forces were deployed to break up the clash in the northern city of Tripoli, which started after the funeral of a Sunni Muslim government supporter killed in clashes with opposition protesters on Tuesday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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