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New War in the Middle East Would Be a "Disaster"- US Official - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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An Iranian and a Hezbollah flag fly in front of Israeli border at Kfarkila village in south Lebanon. (R)

An Iranian and a Hezbollah flag fly in front of Israeli border at Kfarkila village in south Lebanon. (R)

Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat- US President Barack Obama is set to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in Washington today in what represents the Lebanese leader’s first official visit to the US since he took office. Al-Hariri will discuss a number of topics with Obama in Washington, most notably how to protect Lebanese stability and sovereignty, as well as the Lebanese fears of a future Israeli attack.

The White House announced that Obama “looks forward to consulting with Prime Minister Hariri on a broad range of mutual goals in support of Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, and regional peace and security.” Obama is expected to confirm the US administration’s commitment to Lebanese stability and sovereignty, and this is the message that was carried by a number of US officials to Lebanon during the previous stage, especially in light of the relative openness of Obama’s administration towards Syria. US officials will also stress the importance of implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701 for Lebanese stability during meetings with al-Hariri over the course of the coming week.

A senior US official familiar with the US file said that al-Hariri’s visit to Washington “is an opportunity for us to confirm our commitment to the sovereignty and stability of Lebanon, and I am sure that we want to talk to the Prime Minister about ways to continue our support to Lebanese institutes, and to reassure him.”

The senior US official, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, added “Of course, there are a number of files that we look forward to discussing with Prime Minister al-Hariri; one of which is a priority for both our countries, and that is a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. We remain committed to comprehensive peace, i.e. peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon, and Israel and the rest of its neighboring Arab countries. This is an issue that I am certain will be discussed with the [Lebanese] Prime Minister.”

Lebanon will request US assurances that Washington will not allow a new war to take place in the region, particularly a war targeting Lebanon, however the US official told Asharq Al-Awsat that “guarantees cannot be made, nobody can predict the future, however of course we can make every effort to help reduce tensions and encourage the parties in the region to not issue statements that could result in escalation. From our point of view, preventing the flow of arms to Hezbollah is an important part in trying to create a safer environment for Lebanon and the region.”

The senior US official said that implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for Hezbollah to give up its arms, and for the official Lebanese armed forces to be the only armed party in Lebanon, represents the best guarantee for Lebanese stability. He also said that another war in the region would be a “disaster” and that “we do not want to see another conflict, and here our viewpoint is completely consistent with that of the Lebanese Prime Minister.”

In response to a question by Asharq Al-Awsat whether the US administration intends to provide al-Hariri with intelligence information about the Israeli allegations that Hezbollah are in possession of Scud missiles via the Syrian border, the US senior official said “our priority in the region is stability and peace, and when Resolution 1701 was approved by the Security Council, it aimed to stop the 2006 crisis, and prevent another crisis from taking place.”

He added “stopping the flow of arms to Hezbollah via the Syrian border is an important part of implementing resolution 1701 and attempting to implement all aspects of this will be something that we will discuss with the [Lebanese] Prime Minister.”

The US official also warned that “if a new conflict erupts, the Lebanese people will pay the highest price for this. Therefore, it is in the interests of Lebanon to ensure the implementation of resolution 1701 and this is something that we need to be implemented because we want to avoid conflict in general, therefore implementing all aspects of resolution 1701 is something that we want to discuss, and preventing the smuggling of arms to Hezbollah is an important part of this.”

The US administration is also expected to discuss a strategy to secure its borders with the Lebanese delegation, in addition to US support for the official Lebanese forces. The US source also mentioned that al-Hariri is set to visit the UN headquarters in New York during his visit to the US, coinciding with Lebanon being elected to join the Security Council. The US administration is expected to ask Lebanon to support its draft resolution to impose new sanctions on Iran. The senior US official who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity said “we are in contact with all members of the Security Council, including Lebanon, and we look forward to working with Lebanon during its membership of the Security Council, and there are several issues that are important to us that are being discussed by the Security Council”

The US official added “this resolution is a priority to the administration and we have been working on this with members of the Security Council for a long time, and it is important that we reach a consensus in the Security Council to pressure Iran to comply with its international obligations.”

In terms of US – Syrian relations and Washington’s willingness to nominate an ambassador to Damascus, US officials will reiterate their commitment to Lebanese sovereignty and not taking decisions on its account. The senior US official said “we are clear in our public and private statements that our communication with Syria is built upon frank and serious talks with the Syrians over the US concerns and US goals in the region; including the stability and sovereignty of Lebanon.”

He added “For example, we look forward to beginning the demarcation of the (Lebanese – Syrian) border, and this is something publicly committed to by President al-Assad, so this is one of the issues that we will discuss with the Syrians, and talks are not a guarantee of success, however such talks are a necessity if we want a chance to achieve our goals.”

File photo shows Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaking during a joint press conference with Greek counterpart George Papandreou, unseen, at the Government House in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)

File photo shows Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaking during a joint press conference with Greek counterpart George Papandreou, unseen, at the Government House in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)

File photo shows President Barack Obama walking down the stairs from Air Force One upon his arrival at Air Force Base in Maryland. (AP)

File photo shows President Barack Obama walking down the stairs from Air Force One upon his arrival at Air Force Base in Maryland. (AP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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