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U.S. Message to Vatican on Lebanon

"Our Common Goal Is a Free, Democratic Lebanon"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 27, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the statement sent today by Francis Rooney, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, on humanitarian relief to Lebanon.

* * *

From the outset of the crisis between Israel and Hezbollah, the United States has worked with the international community to relieve civilian suffering resulting from the conflict, to urgently end the violence that Hezbollah and its sponsors have imposed on the people of Lebanon and Israel, and to change the status quo that produced the war.

Benedict XVI has also made his special concern for the region known. The Pope has called attention to the plight of civilians on all sides of the conflict, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian -- both Israelis and Lebanese.

Aware of the special relationship between the Holy See and Lebanon, the United States consulted closely with Vatican officials throughout the conflict, and continues to do so now that attention has shifted to peacekeeping and reconstruction. We share a common desire to see wartime damage repaired, the Lebanese people assisted, and a lasting peace secured.

To this end, the United States has continued to work to aid the thousands of people who are in distress following this conflict. Since the beginning we have worked to ensure that transportation routes were open and goods could be delivered to those in need. In addition to the $27 million in aid that the United States has already provided, President George Bush recently announced a total current commitment of $230 million to the people of Lebanon.

From day one the United States provided support to the people of Lebanon by delivering medicine, fuel, shelter, food, and water. We helped international relief agencies and NGOs arrange convoys to bring critical supplies to civilians in the conflict zones and worked with the Israeli and Lebanese governments to open ports, shipping lanes, and runways to allow the delivery of these supplies. In order to ensure an uninterrupted food supply, the United States has shipped 25 metric tons of wheat to Lebanon which will arrive in the coming weeks.

In addition to immediate relief, the United States is committed to assisting in the rebuilding of vital parts of public infrastructure such as schools, bridges, and roads and to supporting the reconstruction of homes in the hardest-hit areas of Lebanon.

The United States will help with the clean up of the Jiyyeh oil spill and the resulting pollution to allow people to return to their livelihoods and to protect the health of those living in costal communities.

The United States is committed to helping those who are in need following this conflict. If this peace is to be secure, the Lebanese people must emerge from this struggle with more opportunities and greater prosperity.

We will continue to work to this end with Lebanon, the Holy See, and other concerned countries such as Italy, which has shown tremendous leadership during this period.

Our common goal is a free, democratic Lebanon no longer undermined by a terrorist group. The United States shares Benedict XVI's conviction that "the latest developments give us hope that clashes will end and that humanitarian assistance will be promptly and efficiently provided to the population."

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Keywords

Lebanon, United States, Vatican, War, Peace, Islam, Rooney

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