(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
WASHINGTON – Two key members of Congress have lifted their holds on aid to the
Lebanese military, clearing the way for $100 million to be transferred to the
The money has been tied up since August, when the lawmakers
expressed concern about American funds ending up in the hands of Hizbullah,
particularly after an incident in which Lebanese Armed Forces soldiers shot at
IDF soldiers along the border, killing an Israeli officer.
'Hizbullah should join Lebanese Army'
Sunni-Shi’ite clashes in Beirut
Photo gallery: Unrest on the border
'France to sell HOT missiles to LAF'
(D-New York), chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the House
Appropriations Committee, and Howard Berman (D-California), chairman of the
House Foreign Affairs Committee, had both requested reassurances from the State
Department concerning oversight for the money, which helps train and equip the
“The administration gave detailed briefings and provided
thorough, written responses to Congresswoman Lowey’s questions and concerns
about the assistance and safeguards in place to prevent it from falling into
terrorists’ hands,” a Democratic congressional staffer said of Lowey’s decision
to lift the hold on Friday.
“Improving Lebanon’s ability to defend its
borders, stop arms trafficking, build institutions and fight terrorist elements
is imperative to the security and stability of the region.”
Department, which lobbied to reverse the holds, has long argued that the funds
are an important counter-weight to Hizbullah’s growing influence and military
In recent days, the Shi’itegroup has flexed its muscle as Lebanon awaits the report of a United Nations
tribunal on the assassination of the anti-Syrian Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri,
which is expected to identify Hizbullah officials as responsible for the
Hizbullah has said it would oppose any indictments and many in
Lebanon are worried about a new round of violence if Hizbullah members are
Berman also cited the information he received from the
administration as making him feel comfortable lifting the hold.
convinced that implementation of the spending plan will now have greater focus,
and I am reassured as to the nature and purposes of the proposed package,” he
explained. “I also understand that the LAF has taken important steps to prevent
recurrence of dangerous and provocative actions.”
He added, “I have also
been given reason for confidence that assistance to the LAF has not fallen into
the hands of Hizbullah and that every possible measure is being taken by
Lebanese and American authorities to prevent that from happening.”
Berman noted his continued concern about events in Lebanon, and pointed out that
some of the elements of the aid package are still not ready for delivery. When
they are, there will be an additional round of congressional notification,
allowing him and Lowey to renew their objections.
A State Department
official welcomed the move on Friday, saying the funding of the LAF “is part of
an international commitment to help strengthen the institutions of the Lebanese
state and the ability of the Lebanese government to exercise its sovereignty and
authority over all of its territory.”