WASHINGTON, (AFP) — A key US lawmaker lifted his hold Friday on 100 million dollars in US military aid to Lebanon, saying he was reassured Lebanese troops would try to prevent flare-ups along the border with Israel.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman said he was satisfied with a “thorough” inter-agency review by President Barack Obama’s administration of its military assistance program to Lebanon, initiated after his hold in August.
“As a result, I am convinced that implementation of the spending plan will now have greater focus, and I am re-assured as to the nature and purposes of the proposed package,” Berman said, noting he had been fully briefed about the review.
But he cited ongoing unrest in Lebanon amid simmering tensions with its Jewish neighbor in the wake of a 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon’s Shiite movement Hezbollah that killed 1,200 Lebanese, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Lebanese Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri is also in a standoff with Hezbollah over a UN-backed probe into the assassination of his father, former premier Rafiq Hariri.
“I continue to be concerned about developments in Lebanon, and I will continue my ongoing discussions with State (Department) regarding the optimal contours of future military assistance for Lebanon,” Berman said.
The California Democratic representative said he had received reassurances that US assistance to the Lebanese armed force has not fallen into the hands of Hezbollah, and Lebanese and US authorities were working to ensure that would not happen.
He noted that the Lebanese military has taken “important steps to prevent recurrence of dangerous and provocative actions.”
In an interview with Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Lebanese people “deserve lasting peace and an end to political violence once and for all.”
“The United States is committed to that goal, and we will continue supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces to ensure they have the capacity to protect Lebanon?s security from threats both internal and external,” she added.
“We also work hard to avoid actions or statements that would raise temperatures higher or inflame tensions further.”
She also expressed disappointment with actions taken by neighboring Syria, saying it pursues policies “outside established international norms” and vowing to hold the country “accountable” for its behavior.
The United States has accused Syria of illicitly arming Hezbollah and other militias and showing “flagrant disregard” for the country’s independence, charges Damascus has rejected.