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Chirac Says Lebanon Donors Pledge $7.6 Billion

Jacques Chirac (file photo) (epa) January 25, 2007 -- French President Jacques Chirac says that international donors have pledged a total of $7.6 billion in aid for Lebanon at a conference held in Paris today.

More than 40 countries and international organizations took part in the one-day meeting to raise funds to help rebuild the war-scarred country and shore up Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's government.

Siniora told the conference that international aid would strengthen Lebanon's stability.

"Your support adds to our determination to protect our freedom, enhance our democracy, consolidate our independence, and reform our economy," he said.

Siniora is facing increasing pressure at home from the Hizballah-led opposition seeking to oust his pro-Western government.

Earlier today, Saudi Arabia announced that it would contribute some $1 billion in aid for Lebanon. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has already pledged some $522 million in loans or aid.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the United States would seek $770 million for a new comprehensive package of which "a substantial part would be grants, not loans." The amount must first be approved by the U.S. Congress.

(compiled from agency reports)