Thursday, January 25, 2007

Secretary Rice, PM Siniora and the US Lebanon Partnership

Joint Press Availability With Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora and Lebanon Partnership CEOs
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Paris, France
January 25, 2007

Lebanon Partnership CEOs: Craig Barrett, Chairman, Intel Corporation; John Chambers, President and CEO, Cisco Corporation; Jay Collins, CEO Public Sector Group, Citigroup; Yousif Ghafari, Chairman, Ghafari Companies

PRIME MINISTER SINIORA: -- for the people you can see on the stand here regarding the public-private partnership and the role that can be played by certain private companies in the development of Lebanon. This comes as a response to an initiative that we made, and kindly President Bush has responded and requested these leaders in their fields and companies to see how they can really help Lebanon. And I would like to see this opportunity to thank President Bush for what he has done in this regard as well as in the success of the conference for the support of Lebanon that will be held today.

And today we are going to really discuss a few things in here about what can be done in terms of development in Lebanon in the remote areas, in the creation of jobs and training and exposing people. We have discussed several aspects about the help that can be provided by these companies to the young Lebanese who are not able to find jobs, who are not able to be aware of what's happening in the world.

So we suggested a few things in terms of really having centers in certain public schools as well as in community centers that can really establish certain libraries that are, let's say, connected internet with the world so that this can really provide learning, knowledge to many of our young generation and to the Lebanese at large to be connected. And this can happen in learning as well as in job creation.

Secretary Rice.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, thank you very much, Prime Minister, and thank you for your leadership of Lebanon in difficult times. But I am -- I think we're all very impressed with your commitment to all of the Lebanese people, and this panel is really also a commitment to all of Lebanon's people to try and help them find a brighter future. As an educator myself, I like very much the idea that you have of these communities and being able to give young people new tools to be able to prepare themselves and to bring job creation to remote areas.

This is a public-private partnership. The United States Government is later going to announce its own contribution to Lebanon's development, but we recognize that the private sector can really be the multiplier in all of this because investment in people, investment in job creation, investment in development -- there's really nothing like the private sector for that. And so I want to thank very much first John Chambers, who has led this effort, and to invite him to say a word; but also Yousif Ghafari, who is by origin Lebanese and has still many ties to Lebanon; also Craig Barrett from Intel and Jay Collins from Citigroup for being the leaders in this private sector initiative. So, John.

MR. CHAMBERS: Thank you, Madame Secretary. When President Bush asked us to go to Lebanon, he didn't say this is the answer. He said, "Go and listen." He said there's a leader there who's very, very good, elected democratically. Listen to the business leaders, listen to students, listen to the businesses in terms of what is possible, see what the NGOs can do, et cetera, and come back with an approach.

And when we first went it was a daunting task, and all of a sudden you realized what could really happen through public-private partnerships. All of a sudden, instead of making a difference in a community, we have the potential to together do what none of us can do by ourselves: to help every citizen of Lebanon.

And the more we looked at it, we realized based upon the Prime Minister's priorities and what we were hearing from all groups in Lebanon, is that we can make a huge difference in immediate relief to the NGOs, which we have done. We could also do what business does best. We could outline a hundred projects for job creation, prioritize those down to 10 or 20, and each of us or together say what we could do in each of those categories. Workforce preparedness, whether it's the high-tech academies or approaches, really training a workforce for the future.

But it was the community centers that the Prime Minister personally suggested that suddenly the light bulb went off, where we could make a difference not just to connect community centers for the citizens to be gaining access to the libraries that are being built in Beirut, but to the world and to the region. And all of a sudden a government that really gets it could provide healthcare, education, training, registration and it could be expanded to the schools. And all of a sudden, instead of saying let's rebuild, you suddenly begin to realize a vision, I think a vision of Lebanon for the future that others would follow.

It is tremendously enticing to us as business leaders to look at what this model could be and how quickly it could be replicated. We are not naïve in terms of the challenges in front of us, but we do think public-private partnerships are the way of the future where business can play a key role in doing things that we do remarkably well. But it has to be all of us working together and focused on the good of the citizenship for all the Lebanese people throughout.

So it's an honor to play this role and we will not let you down.

PRIME MINISTER SINIORA: Thank you very much, John. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, and we look forward to working with you very much. Maybe Yousif could do ---


MR. GHAFARI: This is very close to home. I was born in the south of Lebanon and my little village was very much affected with what happened --


MR. GHAFARI: (Inaudible). The Prime Minister and I come from the south of Lebanon. The Prime Minister is from a large city. I'm from a little village. And like I said, this is very close to home. I'm very much looking forward to working with John Chambers and the rest, and we look forward to very quick (inaudible) that will be used as an example for the rest of the country. Thank you.



QUESTION: A question actually first to the Secretary. Is the $770 million in U.S. aid that you will announce today contingent on Prime Minister Siniora remaining in power and the establishment of a Hariri tribunal?

I guess I might ask a similar question to the business executives. Would you be willing to continue your investment if the Siniora government falls?


QUESTION: And for the Prime Minister, do you think that Hezbollah has the power to bring down your government at will, as Nasrallah said yesterday?

SECRETARY RICE: Anne, clearly this is a package that is for Lebanon and that is extremely important to understand. Lebanon is a democracy. That said, Lebanon is also undertaking some important economic reforms that are critical to making any of this work, and it's not at all unusual that donors expect that those reforms are going to continue, in fact, as the donor community responds to the needs. And so from our point of view, the reforms that this government has taken and is undertaking are making it -- those reforms are making it possible to contemplate contributions of the size that the United States is going to make today and inviting an environment in which business can operate. But this is for Lebanon and for the Lebanese people, and I'm sure the Prime Minister would have it no other way.

PRIME MINISTER SINIORA: Let me make it very clear in this respect. I've said it several times. I'm saying it again. It's that this conference and the results are for all the Lebanese, not for any group against other groups and not for one specific government. This is going to extend over a number of years and the benefits is going to accrue to all Lebanese elements, ultimately to all the Lebanese. So no one can really conclude that this is for the benefit of one group or one person at all, completely. This is for all Lebanon and all the Lebanese.

The second thing is that my government is there as the legitimate and the constitutional government. It will continue as long as it has the support of the constitutional authorities which is the parliament and has the majority of the Lebanese. So as long as we enjoy this -- for this confidence we are saying we are elected, democratically elected government, and will continue to behave as such.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.