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Syria Opposition Aims to Raise $60 Billion for Rebuilding

Syrian National Council Leader George Sabra
Syrian National Council leader George Sabra said, "We depend on the friends of Syria and the international community, which has an obligation toward Syria.” Photgorapher: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

A coalition of groups battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seeking to raise $60 billion from allied nations to help rebuild the country when fighting ends, an opposition leader said.

Syria will need the money for reconstruction in the first six months after the conflict ends, Syrian National Council leader George Sabra told reporters in Dubai today. The United Arab Emirates may provide funds “soon,” he said.

The Syrian National Council is one of the components of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the newly created umbrella group for forces fighting to end Assad’s rule. The oil-rich Gulf Arab countries and the 27-nation European Union have recognized the coalition as legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.

“We will raise the funds through aid and loans,” Sabra said. “We depend on the friends of Syria and the international community, which has an obligation toward Syria.”

The U.A.E., the second-biggest economy in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia, is willing to help Syria rebuild when fighting halts, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said today in Dubai. “What we want to do is involve the private sector in what sort of economy emerges in a future Syria,” he said.

U.A.E. Companies

U.A.E. companies, including Mubadala Development Co., Abu Dhabi National Energy Co., Masdar and DP World are interested in investing in postwar Syria, the country’s Economy Minister Sultan Al-Mansouri told reporters in Dubai.

Drydocks World LLC, a Dubai-based operator of bulk carriers, cargo vessels and ship-repair services, is also interested in working in the country when the conflict ends, Chairman Khamis Buamim told reporters in Dubai. “When you go to a place like Syria, there’s a lot of opportunities on the coastline, in the trade side.”

The country has suffered “catastrophic” destruction since the anti-Assad uprising started in March last year, Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations peace envoy for Syria, said last month. Oil exports, which in 2010 accounted for a quarter of Syrian government revenue, have almost ended, according to an Oct. 26 report by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Rebels regularly attack oil pipelines.

Gross domestic product is set to contract by 10.2 percent this year, according to the EIU. Inflation accelerated to more than 36 percent in August.

Damascus Clashes

Osama Kadi, a panelist at the conference, said Syrian businessmen have committed to investing $5 billion in postwar rehabilitation, without naming the companies or the people. He estimated that Syria’s foreign reserves have shrunk to about $3 billion from $18 billion before the crisis.

Forces loyal to Assad clashed today with rebels in Latakia province on the Mediterranean coast and in the southern neighborhoods of Damascus, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on in its Facebook page. The Syrian air force carried out raids in Deir Ezzour and Idlib, the group said.

The Syrian army pursued and killed “terrorists” in the Damascus suburbs of Arbeen, al-Huseinyeh and Saida Zeinab, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported, citing an unidentified Syrian offical. An armed group targeted a mosque in the Daraya suburb, the news service said.

More than 35,000 people have died since the uprising began, according to the Syrian Observatory. Syrian troops loyal to Assad killed 32 people across the country today, including 10 in or around Damascus, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mailed statement.

President Barack Obama said on Nov. 14 that the U.S. wasn’t ready to recognize the opposition coalition as a government in exile, though it will hold talks with the group.

“We hope the Americans will change their position and recognize the opposition,” Sabra said today.

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