Paris: Int'l donors raise funds for Lebanon gov't

International donors pledged billions of dollars in aid at a conference Thursday to raise money for Lebanon's US-backed prime minister and his economic reform program for the war-scarred country. Saudi Arabia said it would channel US$1 billion (€770 million) in development funding and an additional US$100 million (€77 million) grant for the Lebanese government. French President Jacques Chirac, the conference host, said that half of a new €500 million (US$650 million) loan from France would be extended this year. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, pledged some €400 million (US$522 million) in loans or aid, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed that the Bush administration would seek US$770 million (€592 million) for a new comprehensive package of which "a substantial part would be grants, not loans." That money must be approved by US Congress. Rice and Saniora met for breakfast Thursday morning before the conference started.