WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made calls to Lebanese leaders in recent days to emphasize the American commitment to stability as upheaval in Syria threatens its neighbor.

On Thursday, Clinton spoke to Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati and former prime minister Saad Hariri.

“The secretary voiced concern over recent incidents in Lebanon and expressed appreciation for the prime minister’s and other Lebanese leaders’ efforts to maintain calm,” according to the State Department statement on the Mikati call. “Secretary Clinton emphasized the United States’ commitment to a stable, independent and sovereign Lebanon.”

She communicated a similar message to Hariri, according to the State Department, but also discussed steps the US could take with him and the Lebanese government to improve the situation, which has seen violence threaten to once again engulf the country.

“Syria is trying to change the subject and move the confrontation to Lebanon,” explained Amal Mudallali, an adviser to Hariri who was speaking at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Friday in Washington.

But she said that right now, only Hezbollah has the military and political power in the country to start a civil war.

Yet she assessed that Hezbollah did not want to move to such a step at this time.

“The party that has the most weapons and the power is Hezbollah, and it’s not in their interest to have a war,” Mudallali said. “There’s no party in Leb that has an interest in civil war.”

Hassan Mneimneh, who also spoke at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies event Friday, agreed. While he said tensions would continue to flare in Lebanon, “It’s not going to devolve into civil war.”

Mudallali also dismissed the threat of Salafis or even al-Qaida gaining power in the north as not borne out by the facts, one which Lebanese there see as a “ploy” to justify action against the area.

She saw this too as an effort by Syria to distract from its own actions, particularly by drawing US attention to Lebanon with such warnings.

“Using it is a message to the United States,” she said.

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