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Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Gil Yohanan
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Siniora: No peace deal with Israel
Lebanese PM says his government is holding no direct talks with Israel, vows Lebanon would be last country to sign peace deal with Jewish State; Olmert said earlier ceasefire is cornerstone for peace

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Wednesday that he refused to have any direct contact with Israel and Lebanon would be the last Arab country to ever sign a peace deal with the Jewish state.

 

"Let it be clear, we are not seeking any agreement until there is just and comprehensive peace based on the Arab initiative," he said.

 

He was referring to a plan that came out of a 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut. It calls for Israel to return all territories it conquered in the 1967 Mideast war, the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem - all in exchange for peace and full normalization of Arab relations with Israel.

 

Israel has long sought a peace deal with Lebanon, but Beirut has hesitated as long as Israel's conflicts with the Palestinians and Syria remained unresolved.

 

Siniora said Lebanon wants to go back to the 1949 armistice agreement that formally ended the Arab-Israeli war over Israel's creation.

 

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said earlier Wednesday that the Israel-Hizbullah ceasefire could be "a

cornerstone to build a new reality between Israel and Lebanon."

 

Annan: Establish a durable peace 

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also said they hoped the ceasefire deal could evolve into a full-fledged peace agreement between Israel and Lebanon.

 

Implementation of the ceasefire "gives us a foundation to move forward and settle the differences between Israel and Lebanon once and for all, to establish a durable peace," Annan said.

 

Also Wednesday, Siniora said that his government would pay USD 33,000 per house to compensate residents whose homes were destroyed by Israeli attacks. The government has been criticized for being slow to respond with financial support for people who lost homes in the fighting.

 

Siniora said 130,000 housing units had been destroyed or damaged in more than a month of Israeli airstrikes and ground fighting with Hizbullah guerrillas, mostly in south Lebanon. He did not give a breakdown of the completely destroyed houses.

 

Hizbullah launched rebuilding campaigns in its strongholds within days of the Aug. 14 ceasefire, burnishing its support among residents.

 

Siniora said he would ask delegates to an international donors' conference in Sweden on Thursday to take responsibility for rebuilding specific villages hit by Israeli attacks. Organizers of the conference are aiming to raise USD 500 million in aid for Lebanon, Sweden's aid minister said Tuesday.

 

The European Commission said Wednesday it will pledge USD 54 million at the conference on top of the USD 64 million that the European Union's head office has already earmarked for emergency relief to Lebanon.

 

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