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Lebanon PM in desperate aid plea

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden (CNN) -- Lebanon's prime minister has painted a picture of depleted resources, lost revenue, death and destruction during a speech given to potential donors in Stockholm.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, addressing an audience of 60 governments and aid organizations, was hoping to raise approximately $500 million to help Lebanon rebuild its war-torn infrastructure after more than a month of fighting.

"Where we had a future full of promise we must now pick up the pieces of our devastated economy," Siniora said.

"Israel killed over 1,100 people -- one third who were children under 12 -- and wounded more than 4,000."

He also said power stations, warehouses and airports were severely damaged and that a quarter of the population was now displaced, many with no homes to return to.

The aftermath comes from the fighting that erupted July 12 when Hezbollah militants crossed the Israeli border, killed three Israeli soldiers and seized two others.

The initial attack provoked a sweeping Israeli offensive aimed at knocking out key Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon as well as the country's infrastructure, causing millions of dollars in damage.

Large swaths of southern Lebanon have been reduced to rubble, as well as whole neighborhoods south of Beirut.

On Wednesday, Siniora announced his government would pay about $33,000 to compensate residents whose homes were destroyed in the war.

During his speech to potential donors Stockholm, Siniora sharply criticized Israel's air and sea blockade of Lebanon, which is still in effect despite a cease-fire.

He also called the entire war "unjustified."

Lebanon's achievements post-war have been wiped out by "Israel's deadly military machine," he said.

"Before the war, Lebanon expected to grow 6 percent and now we are in a deep recession."

Israel's current activity -- "violating airspace daily and commanding operations inside Lebanon" -- is nothing short of illegal and threatens to "severely undermine" the recovery process, Siniora said.

Concluding his speech, Siniora called upon the audience to join U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to employ all efforts to remove "the obstacle of preventing the Lebanon people of regaining their freedom and sovereignty" and help rebuild "our nation of hope."

Israel was not invited to the conference because it is not among the traditional donor nations in the Middle East, organizers said.


A man stands amid the rubble in the Lebanese village of Shehabiyah on Wednesday.

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