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Armed With Iran's Millions, Fighters Turn To Rebuilding

In his speech Monday, Nasrallah outlined Hezbollah's reconstruction. Activists would begin work immediately to repair damaged homes and clear the rubble from the hardest-hit villages like Bint Jbeil, Aitaroun and Khiam. For families whose houses were destroyed, a number he estimated at 15,000, Hezbollah would provide money to rent another house for a year as well as buy furniture. An informed source said the group planned to spend $150 million, already provided by Iran, in coming days.

"You will not have to ask for anyone's help, you will not have to stand in lines or go anywhere," Nasrallah said. "Of course, we can't wait for the order of the state and the tools that it uses, as it could consume some time."

He said Hezbollah and the government would work in "two parallel lines."

In the Beirut suburbs, a half-dozen bulldozers removed rubble Tuesday, throwing up clouds of dust. Along one stretch were the remains of a nine-story building, in front of a newly hung banner that read: "Made in the USA." Lebanese flags were planted in other piles. Residents walked around the devastation, some taking pictures, others with new Hezbollah flags wrapped around their necks.

Among them was Leila Atwi, a 26-year-old newlywed. Her voice was matter-of-fact. Only Hezbollah would help, she said, suggesting the deep credibility Hezbollah enjoys among its Shiite Muslim constituency.

"Where is the government? Do you see anyone from the state here?" she asked. "Sayyid Hasan is our state."

"This war may not be over, but we are not afraid. The sayyid will protect us, and any new war will make us just stronger," Atwi said. "Look at us now. We're much stronger than we were a month ago."

The work began in Khiam in the morning, as Hezbollah activists raced around the town driving mopeds, motorcycles, white pickup trucks and cars, some the newest models. Sprinkled glass swept into the street sounded like wind chimes. Several roaring bulldozers plowed to the side pulverized stone, splintered cinder blocks and the detritus of daily life -- cans, bottles and plastic crates.

"We came here to see what we need to do in the town," said the 18-year-old driver, Hussein Abdullah.

To the side was Abu Shaker, the 35-year-old guerrilla turned relief worker. He fought elsewhere during the war -- he declined to say where -- and had returned by early morning to his home town. As he directed the bulldozer, he was greeted by deferential policemen, whose station was destroyed. Other residents sprang down the steps and into the street to shake his hand.

"When Sayyid Hasan promises, then we adhere to it," he said. "He promised we'd start today, so we began at 6:30 a.m."

He passed an ambulance of a Hezbollah-affiliated health organization, then a poster that declared: "Khiam 2005 Tourist City." Nearly every car that passed called out to him.


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