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Swiss pledge additional funds for Middle East

Most of the Swiss money is to allow emergency work to continue in Lebanon

(Keystone)

The government has announced an additional SFr15 million ($12.1 million) to help victims of the conflicts in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The funds are intended to allow emergency relief work to continue in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The additional funds approved by cabinet take the total Swiss contribution to just over SFr20 million. The government gave the Swiss-led International Committee of the Red Cross SFr5.2 million in July for relief work in Lebanon.

The foreign ministry's announcement came one week after a donor conference in Stockholm, which raised more than $940 million for Lebanon, almost twice as much as expected.

With thousands of displaced people heading back to their homes in Lebanon and many others homeless, there are huge needs, in particular in terms of housing and shelter, the government said.

The additional Swiss money will be split between the ICRC, United Nations agencies and bilateral projects carried out by non-governmental organisations.

Aid targeted

The emergency aid is to be targeted, with priority given to women and young children. One-third of the funds are for Palestinian refugees in the Israeli-occupied territories, the government said.

It also announced that it had released funds to cover the SFr2.4 million spent evacuating 920 Swiss nationals from Lebanon.

There was no mention of possible Swiss logistical or technical support for UN peacekeeping troops in southern Lebanon, however.

The foreign and defence ministries are currently looking into the issue and a mission with representatives of both ministries is due to travel to the region to examine the needs.

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In brief

The Swiss foreign ministry's Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has shifted much of its humanitarian aid effort to southern Lebanon to assist returning refugees.

The ICRC said it aims to supply at least 200,000 internally displaced people and vulnerable residents in Lebanon with food and other items by the end of the year.

It aims to deliver drinking water to one million people and support health structures used by 600,000 people.

For 2006 the SDC's projected budget for the Palestinian territories is SFr21.6 million.

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SWISS SOLIDARITY

Swiss Solidarity, the fund-raising arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, is raising money to help child victims in the Middle East. Donations can be made online (see link below) or to Post Office account: 10-15000-6, marked "Child victims of war".

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