WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House expressed concern Wednesday over what it called mounting evidence that Syria and Iran are joining with Hezbollah in an attempt to topple the Lebanese government.
Press Secretary Tony Snow said any such attempt through tactics that include manufactured demonstrations and violence or physical threats to Lebanese leaders would be a clear violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and three United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Snow said there are indications that Syria’s goal is to prevent the government of Prime Minister Faud Saniora from approving the statute for an international tribunal that would try those accused of involvement in former Prime Minister Hariri’s assassination in 2005.
“Any such effort to sideline the tribunal will fail, however, for the international community can proceed with establishing it no matter what happens internally in Lebanon,” Snow said. He added that the United States is committed to the quick establishment of a tribunal.
The White House announcement came as the militant group Hezbollah threatened street protests to force early elections in Lebanon. Hezbollah is demanding creation of a “national unity” cabinet that would give the Islamic militants and their allies veto power over key decisions.
The United States has been concerned about Syrian and Iranian actions in Lebanon for some time.
At the United Nations on Monday, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton accused the two countries of trying to destabilize Lebanon’s democratically elected government by violating a U.N. arms embargo.
Bolton stressed that Syria’s obligations to respect a U.N. arms embargo authorized in August “are particularly important as it is the one country other than Israel that borders Lebanon.”
Syria and Iran are supporters of Hezbollah, having provided weaponry, training and funding to the group. Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war this past summer. Bolton called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to abide by the commitment he made to Secretary-General Kofi Annan to support the resolution and the arms embargo.
In a speech to the U.N. Security Council, Bolton welcomed the Lebanese government’s extension of its authority throughout the south of the country for the first time in almost 40 years and its deployment along the eastern part of the U.N.-drawn boundary with Israel and the border with Syria.