Lebanon signs new finance agreements with development banks

AP News
Posted: Mar 24, 2016 3:16 PM
Lebanon signs new finance agreements with development banks

BEIRUT (AP) — The World Bank and Islamic Development Bank have signed agreements worth hundreds of millions of dollars to help Lebanon cope with the large number of Syrian refugees who were displaced by their country's civil war.

The announcement was made after a Thursday meeting between Prime Minister Tammam Salam and visiting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and Islamic Development Bank President Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani.

Lebanon is home to more than 1 million registered Syrian refugees, or nearly a quarter of the country's 4.5 million people. Lebanon says that another half a million Syrians live in the country as well.

"The Syrian refugees' presence in Lebanon has generated a severe burden that Lebanon is no longer able to face alone," said Salam during a joint news conference with the visiting dignitaries.

The World Bank president said that it has already signed agreements worth $900 million with Lebanon, saying that the World Bank is doing all it can to get that money out, but progress has been slow because Lebanon has been without a president since May 2014 and parliament rarely meets.

He added that the World Bank's board has decided to take $100 million from a fund used only for the poorest countries, mostly in Africa and South Asia, and "provided today a very concessional loan for the education sector, again to show our appreciation for what Lebanon has done in educating refugees here."

The head of the Islamic Development Bank announced that five agreements have been signed to help Lebanon, and pledged to help more in the future.

"We have signed five agreements worth $373 million. There is another agreement that will be signed soon, God willing, in which the amount will be $400 million," Al-Madani said. He added that several projects are underway and "we expect that during this year there will be agreements worth $220 million."

Earlier Thursday, a bomb targeted a military vehicle in eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, killing one soldier and wounding three, a Lebanese military official said.

The official said the bombing occurred on the edge of the town of Arsal in the Atta Valley. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The Islamic State group and al-Qaida's branch in Syria, known as the Nusra Front, control parts of that volatile border area.