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Statement to Lebanon Press Corps

Randall L. Tobias, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and USAID Administrator
Grand Serail
Beirut, Lebanon
October 27, 2006

I want to begin by thanking Minister of Economy and Trade Sami Haddad, Minister of Finance Jihad Azour, Prime Minister Siniora's Special Assistant, Ambassador Mohammad Chatah, and the Lebanese people for welcoming me to Beirut.

I have been looking forward to this trip for some time. I met with Prime Minister Siniora in Stockholm, during the Donors' Conference for Lebanon's Early Recovery. At that conference, the United States urged donors to ensure that our pledges amounted to more than just words. In this visit, I have had the opportunity to see that our early commitment has indeed translated into immediate action.

I have been deeply encouraged by Lebanon's commitment to rapid recovery and economic growth and I would like to assure the Lebanese people that the American people are completely behind you. Yesterday, I visited Byblos and I saw first-hand that-working in partnership with the Government of Lebanon-we are making progress in cleaning up the oil spill along the coast and improving the livelihoods of the communities who live there. Through other projects I have visited, the U.S. Government is supporting Lebanon's efforts to strengthen the economy by addressing job creation and income generation in rural areas. I met local farmers using a jointly supported agricultural center to improve their products and market them, not only locally within Lebanon, but globally. Our partnership has provided these farmers an opportunity to compete in a marketplace inaccessible not long ago.

I also visited beneficiaries of our microfinance program. With these programs, we are helping Lebanese entrepreneurs realize their economic aspirations. In doing so, we are partnering with the Lebanese people to expand economic opportunities for all, in a way that is sustainable and supportive of their entrepreneurial spirit.

The $230 million committed by President Bush in August has a very clear and important purpose-to help the Lebanese people rebuild their lives and communities after this summer's tragic conflict. I'm pleased that $90 million has already been disbursed to meet basic humanitarian needs and to assist the Lebanese people in the early stages of recovery. In addition to supporting the clean-up effort vital to getting Lebanon's tourism industry back on track, these funds have provided new playgrounds for children in the south, cash for students harvesting apples in the north, and support for fishermen and their families along the coast. Later today, I will tour some of the damaged infrastructure-such as the Mudairej Bridge-the United States will help rebuild as reconstruction efforts continue.

The strong commitment of the United States to the people of Lebanon is embodied in the partnership between the governments of our two diverse and democratic countries. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss with Ministers Haddad and Azour and Ambassador Chatah their views on how our governments might best partner in support of the Lebanese people.

After all, supporting the mutual aspirations of people around the world for lasting peace and prosperity is precisely what U.S. foreign assistance is all about. In fact, Lebanon is the second stop on a four-country tour to ensure that our foreign assistance is being delivered in a way that is coordinated, effective and achieving its strategic goals. Having come from South Africa, I will travel to Egypt and Thailand after completing my consultations here.

Again, I thank the Ministers, Ambassador Chatah and the people of Lebanon for their hospitality. The United States looks forward to working in partnership with them as they realize their vision of a peaceful and prosperous Lebanon with opportunities for all its citizens.

 



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