EU envoy surveys home renovations in South (Lebanon) by Mohammed Zaatari

SOUTH LEBANON: Patrick Laurent, head of the European Delegation in Lebanon, toured the Southern region of Zawtar Gharbiyeh Friday in a bid to inspect the homes that had been rehabilitated by the EU and the Norwegian government following the summer 2006 war with Israel. During his tour, Laurent listened to the local population's complaints on one hand and its praise of the EU initiative on the other.


Daily Star staff
Saturday, March 01, 2008

At the home of Ali Mahmoud Hraibi, 87, Laurent spent about 15 minutes learning about the elderly man's travails.
"I do not have any heaters," Hraibi said. "God bless you ... My home suffered cracks during the war."
Ali is physically and mentally disabled, with no fixed income or support from other family members. He relies on other community members for help.
The EU granted him some $1, 000 to conduct its rehabilitation works that included waterproofing, whitewashing interior walls, as well as external plastering and rubberizing.
Manifa Ali Ismail thanked the EU for its $1, 600 aid to rehabilitate her home.
"At least water does not leak from the ceiling of my home anymore," Ismail said. "I got rid of all the internal cracks."
Zawtar Gharbiyeh is located near Nabatiyeh, with a population of around 300 families and a total agriculture surface of 2,500,000 square meters.
During the summer conflict in 2006, 250 houses were damaged, 80 partially destroyed, 30 completely destroyed and 80 percent of the total agriculture surface contaminated with cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance.
Around 133 houses have been repaired by the Norwegian Refugee Council in the village. The rehabilitation was targeting vulnerable families with low incomes.
Moving to minefields, officials at the Mines Action Group (MAG) informed Laurent of the dangers of cluster bombs strewn by Israel across the South during the war and the works being carried out to clear fields of the unexploded bomblets. Most of the deadly weapons were fired in the final 72 hours of the confluct, when it was clear that a United Nations-brokered cessation of hostitlities was about to go into effect.
Laurent then participated in the detonation of 18 cluster bombs that had been gathered by the MAG group, freeing an agricultural field from hazard.
MAG began its activities in Lebanon in November 2000. Its emergency teams were mobilized the moment the cease-fire was announced on August 15, 2006, and it is now employing more than 400 national staff.
Since August 15, MAG has destroyed more than 16,000 remnants of conflict from local communities, made nearly 6.7 million square meters of dangerous land safe, and is continuing to work to help nearly 450,000 people to have safe and secure lives.
Refusing to comment on the political developments in the country, Laurent told journalists his visit only had a "development purpose."
"My visit aims to watch closely the works being conducted by the European Commission," he said.
According to Laurent, the region lacks economic development. "The Lebanese government is called to implement a development strategy on the local level," he said. "Apparently, the Lebanese state is not working satisfactorily in this regard."
Asked about the alleged return of Hizbullah and its rockets to the South, and if he saw anything during his tour, Laurent said: "I am not specialized in such issues. If I did not see any of them it does not mean they are absent."
In Nabatiyeh, Laurent met with Liberation and Development MP Yassin Jaber in the presence of the bloc's MPs and a number of social figures.
Jaber expressed gratitude to the "strenuous efforts" being deployed by the European Commission to reinstate stability and peace in Lebanon in general and the South in particular.
"We appreciate the projects being carried out in the South in an effort to revive this region and give a new lease of life to its residents," Jaber said.
Laurent, meanwhile, voiced "relief" that the people who were forced to flee their homes during the war could get back to their residences, thanks to the rehabilitation works conducted by the EU and the Norwegian government.

Von:, 01.03.2008

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