Canada first wants to add its voice to those of the other delegations present here in commending the Lebanese people and their government for their determination, commitment to democracy and freedom, and desire for peace and stability.
We also want to express our thanks to President Chirac and France for graciously offering to host this conference, and to the friends of Lebanon gathered here today, to offer the support of the international community to the Government of Lebanon and its people.
Prime Minister Harper asked me to convey his best wishes for success not only at this conference, but afterward, as the Government of Lebanon pursues its ambitious program of economic and social reform. We want to express our steadfast support for the Government of Lebanon in its efforts to promote stability, democracy, and prosperity. Once again, Lebanon faces a decisive choice: one road leads to dependence, division, and insecurity; the other leads to the recovery of sovereignty, respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions, and stability.
Prime Minister Siniora has been a reliable partner for Canada and the international community in our efforts to assist in the reconstruction and stabilization of Lebanon. We are confident that, under his leadership, Lebanon will continue its progress along the road to reform, good government, fiscal responsibility, social peace, and the extension of its sovereignty over all its territory, in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
Canada has provided more than C$30 million to help the Lebanese people in their efforts to recover from the conflict. In the early days of the conflict last summer, Canada demonstrated its support with an initial contribution of C$5.5 million for immediate humanitarian relief. Following the ceasefire, Prime Minister Harper announced the creation of the C$25 million Lebanon Relief Fund to respond effectively to the need for relief, rapid recovery, and stabilization.
In the same way that we supported Lebanon's efforts to recover from the conflict last summer, we support the government of Prime Minister Siniora as it works to implement its reform agenda and tackle the deficit and debt problem that is constraining Lebanon's growth and threatening its long-term economic sustainability. For this effort, a grant of up to C$20 million is being added.
Your reform program is ambitious, Mr. Prime Minister, and Canada will support you concretely and constructively in its implementation. We wish you every success in meeting the governance, debt reduction, and social reform goals you have set.
Canada also welcomes the positive dialogue that has developed over recent months between Lebanon and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). We hope the IMF will be a lasting partner in support of the debt reduction and reform program, and we will provide our full support to Lebanon in its efforts to secure emergency post-conflict assistance from the IMF.
Both Canada and Lebanon are dedicated to democracy and freedom. We also share ties of family and friendship, as our country has more than one quarter of a million Canadians of Lebanese descent.
It is our hope that Lebanon will recover from the scourges of debt and conflict, and move confidently along the path to peace and security, freedom, and prosperity.