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Sat 19 Aug 2006 04:00 AM

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Reconstructing the reconstruction

The sheer despair of a nation is summed up by the quote from Fadl Shalaq, president of Lebanon’s Council for Development and Reconstruction. “We have spent our whole lives doing this reconstruction. On a personal level, I can’t tell you how many houses I have lost. We [have] rebuilt the country so many times, I’m sick of it. I sit on my balcony every night and the bombs start falling, and sometimes I just don’t give a damn,” he says.

|~||~||~|The sheer despair of a nation is summed up by the quote from Fadl Shalaq, president of Lebanon’s Council for Development and Reconstruction.

“We have spent our whole lives doing this reconstruction. On a personal level, I can’t tell you how many houses I have lost.

“We rebuilt the country so many times, I’m sick of it. I sit on my balcony every night and the bombs start falling, and sometimes I just don’t give a damn,” he says.

With the country already heavily indebted by the huge cost of the reconstruction process arising from Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, the challenge will be securing fresh financing to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by the bombing campaign of the last month.

But what Lebanon still has in abundance is the good will of its Arab neighbours as well as many other countries around the world.

Representatives of 60 of those countries have been invited to a donor’s conference in Sweden at the end of this month — which will look to secure pledges for funds to rebuild roads, bridges and ports. The Gulf states, the US, France, Britain, Germany, Norway and Japan will all be in attendance.

Now Shalaq and the Council face the task of drawing up fresh reconstruction plans arising from a month of carnage and destruction.

Estimates of the damage range from upwards of US $2.5 billion (LBP3.7 trillion) to $10 billion. This figure covers the likely cost of rebuilding thousands of homes in the south of the country as well as some of the southern suburbs of Beirut.

All three airports in the country received damage, as did around 120 bridges — including the Mdairege Bridge connecting Mount Lebanon to the Bekaa Valley.

Like the destroyed old bridge of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which came to symbolise the reconstruction of that country, the rebuilding of the Mdairege Bridge could well symbolise this latest reconstruction effort in Lebanon.

And that process needs to begin as quickly as possible to restore the optimism and confidence that was everywhere to be seen in Lebanon as recently as five weeks ago.||**||

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