P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News
Monday 11 September 2006
Last Update 11 September 2006 12:00 am
JEDDAH, 11 September 2006 — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah held talks here yesterday with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora on the latest developments in Lebanon, including efforts to rebuild the war-torn country.
Crown Prince Sultan, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Director General of Intelligence Prince Muqrin and Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf attended the talks at Al-Salam Palace here, the Saudi Press Agency said. Siniora thanked the Saudi government and people for their support to Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia said in July it had placed $1 billion in Lebanon’s central bank in an effort to prop up the Lebanese pound and had also made a separate donation of $500 million to help rebuild the country. Lebanese officials have estimated that five weeks of Israeli airstrikes caused some $3.6 billion in damage to the country’s infrastructure, including schools.
Speaking to reporters, Siniora said his visit to the Kingdom was significant. “Saudi Arabia has been extending total support to Lebanon at international forums to stop the Israeli aggression and military blockade. We consider it a big gesture on the part of King Abdullah,” he said. The premier said his talks with the king had covered the political, economic and social repercussions of the Israeli attack. “We also discussed the Lebanese vision on the measures to be taken for a total Israeli withdrawal, permanent cease-fire and tackling such key issues as the Shebaa Farms,” SPA quoted him as saying.
Siniora met with Finance Minister Al-Assaf in Beirut on Saturday. Al-Assaf said King Abdullah had instructed officials to keep the Saudi aid package under the management of the Lebanese government in order to carry out housing and other vital projects. “We have reached an agreement with Lebanese officials regarding the payment of the donation in a way that serves the interests of Lebanon and its people,” the Saudi minister said.
Speaking about his visit to south Lebanon, Al-Assaf said: “The destruction caused by the Israeli military campaign was unbelievable.” He expressed his confidence that the Lebanese government and people would be able to overcome the difficulties caused by the unwarranted Israeli aggression.