Bush Taps Tech Leaders To Help Fund Reconstruction In Lebanon

Chambers and Barrett have joined with Yousif Gharfari, chairman of Dearborn, Mich.-based architectural and engineering firm Ghafari, who was born in Lebanon, and Dr. Ray Irani, chairman, president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum, Los Angeles, to create the U.S.-Lebanon Partnership Fund. The fund aims to raise money to assist in reconstruction efforts in Lebanon following its war with Israel, according to Cisco.

President Bush on Saturday announced that he had named the executives as part of a delegation to visit Beirut to see areas impacted by the conflict.

The four executives said they have formed an advisory committee to lead the fund, which will be administered by Global Impact, a nonprofit organization. They met with President Bush to discuss their observations from the trip and their plans to increase private-sector resources to aid in reconstruction.

"Our goal, and our mission, is to help Lebanese citizens and Lebanese businesses not only recover, but to flourish, because we believe strongly in the concept of a democracy in Lebanon. ... And now we've got generous citizens of the United States, people who are very busy in their own right, who are willing to step forward and to strategize and raise monies to help people in Lebanon," President Bush said in a separate statement on the White House Web site.

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Funds raised by the U.S.-Lebanon Partnership Fund will supplement $250 million in funding promised by the federal government, according to the president's statement.

Members of the delegation recently returned from a trip to Lebanon, where they surveyed damage and met with Lebanese officials and business leaders, including Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

"The situation in Lebanon is of great concern to us, and it is our goal to support the reconstruction effort in Lebanon and in turn help provide greater access to education and economic opportunity," Chambers said in the Cisco statement.

The fund will provide a means for the private sector to help rebuild the social and economic infrastructure of Lebanon, Barrett said in the statement. "It's important that the people and the business community of the United States support Lebanon through concrete actions, not empty promises," he said.

President Bush thanked Chambers for taking the lead for the group and expressed appreciation to the executives for "taking time to go over to Lebanon and show the face of America."

"We strongly support the young democracies in the Middle East, we support the democracy of Lebanon, we support the democracy of Iraq. And our dream is one day for there to be a Palestinian democracy living side by side in peace with Israel," President Bush said.