US re­it­er­ates con­cern about Hezbol­lah agenda to desta­bi­lize re­gion

Arab News - - News International - Na­jia Hous­sari Beirut PM-des­ig­nate Saad Hariri is set to meet the vis­it­ing US of­fi­cials in Beirut on the grow­ing threat posed by Hezbol­lah. AP

US of­fi­cials are in Beirut hold­ing talks with Le­banese of­fi­cials about the grow­ing threat posed by Hezbol­lah as US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo con­tin­ues to tour the Mid­dle East.

Dur­ing the visit, David Hale, US un­der­sec­re­tary of state for po­lit­i­cal af­fairs, will un­der­score US con­cerns about Hezbol­lah’s desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in Le­banon and the re­gion, which in­clude the re­cent dis­cov­ery of Hezbol­lah’s cross-bor­der tun­nels.

The tun­nels “defy UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1701, jeop­ar­dize the se­cu­rity of the Le­banese peo­ple and un­der­mine the le­git­i­macy of Le­banon’s state in­sti­tu­tions,” the US Em­bassy in Le­banon said in a state­ment is­sued ahead of the meet­ing.

Hale’s visit came ahead of the global sum­mit that will take place in Poland on Feb. 13 and 14 “to counter Tehran’s re­gional in­flu­ence,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment made by Pom­peo two days ago.

Pom­peo an­nounced on Twit­ter be­fore em­bark­ing on his Mid­dle East tour that he would send a clear mes­sage to US friends and part­ners that “the US is com­mit­ted to the re­gion, com­mit­ted to de­feat Daesh and com­mit­ted to coun­ter­ing Iran’s desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Le­banon is not in­cluded in Pom­peo’s visit, which cov­ers eight Arab coun­tries and con­cludes on Tues­day.

The US Em­bassy also said in its state­ment that Hale “will meet with se­nior Le­banese of­fi­cials to dis­cuss the full range of bi­lat­eral and re­gional is­sues.”

The em­bassy also added that he “has en­dur­ing ties with Le­banon and the Le­banese peo­ple after serv­ing at the US Em­bassy in Beirut as a po­lit­i­cal of­fi­cer, deputy chief of mis­sion and am­bas­sador over the span of 27 years.”

“He is re­turn­ing to Le­banon in his new role to reaf­firm strong US sup­port for the Le­banese state, in­clud­ing its le­git­i­mate se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions, as it con­tin­ues to cope with sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges,” the US Em­bassy added.

Shortly after ar­riv­ing in Beirut, Hale, ac­com­pa­nied by US Am­bas­sador to Le­banon El­iz­abeth Richard, met with Walid Jum­blatt, the leader of the Pro­gres­sive So­cial­ist Party.

Hale also met with Joseph Aoun, the com­man­der of the Le­banese Armed Forces, who said that their dis­cus­sion was fo­cused on “the gen­eral sit­u­a­tion in Le­banon and the re­gion, as well as co­op­er­a­tion re­la­tions be­tween the armies of the two coun­tries, es­pe­cially the amount of mil­i­tary as­sis­tance pro­vided by the US to the Le­banese Army.”

Dur­ing his visit to Le­banon, Hale will also meet with Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun, Par­lia­ment Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Min­is­ter­des­ig­nate Saad Hariri, and a num­ber of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers with whom he was ac­quainted when he served as the US am­bas­sador to Le­banon.

Hale’s visit comes at a time when Le­banon is go­ing through a very sen­si­tive phase as a re­sult of the eight-month dis­rup­tion to the gov­ern­ment’s for­ma­tion.

Le­banese par­ties have ac­cused Hezbol­lah mil­i­tant group of be­ing be­hind this dis­rup­tion for rea­sons as­so­ci­ated with Le­banon’s re­gional stance.

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