'Investigate US aid to Lebanese army'

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
August 8, 2010 01:04

Florida congressman Ron Klein calls for US to stop military support.

2 minute read.



Congressman Ron Klein

congressman ron klein 311. (photo credit: courtesy)

WASHINGTON – A Florida congressman is seeking an investigation into whether American equipment was used by Lebanese forces who fired on Israel last week or if the soldiers had received US-funded training.

Democrat Rep. Ron Klein, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, requested the investigation in a letter sent to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday.

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“I would like to formally and respectfully request an investigation into the incident on the Lebanese-Israeli border,” Klein wrote, referring to Israel’s brush-clearing activity on Tuesday that triggered an attack from Lebanese soldiers on the IDF, killing one officer and seriously wounding another.

Israel returned fire and killed three Lebanese troops and a journalist.

“In addition, if the Lebanese government had authorized this attack, I would be very concerned about continuing to provide military support to Lebanon,” Klein wrote.

The US has provided $600 million in aid to the Lebanese military, largely for education and training, as well as some US-made equipment, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters on Thursday.

Asked about Klein’s concerns, which had appeared in The Jerusalem Post before his letter was sent, Crowley responded, “We provide support to Lebanon because it is in our interest to do so.

We do so in close cooperation with the international community for the express purpose of improving the government of Lebanon’s security capability, protecting its sovereignty, and contributing to broad security across the region.”

Despite media reports that American guns might have been used by the Lebanese soldiers who fired at the IDF force, Crowley stressed, “We have no indication that US equipment played any role in this incident earlier this week.”

He also said, “In any US-origin equipment that’s been provided to Lebanon, we have very strong end-use monitoring to make sure it is used appropriately.”

Klein’s letter came after violent incidents in three Israeli regions, including rocket attacks on Ashkelon and Eilat. The latter prompted the State Department to upgrade its travel warnings to include southern Israel.

“US citizens in Eilat and southern Israel are advised to ascertain the location of the nearest bomb shelter,” the new directive states.

Amid the flaring tensions between Israel and its neighbors, the Obama administration is intensifying its efforts to get the Palestinian Authority to negotiate directly with Israel.

US President Barack Obama discussed the issue in a phone call on Friday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, which also touched on other hotspots including Turkey and Afghanistan.

According to a statement put out by the White House, the two leaders “agreed on the need for the parties to move to direct talks as soon as possible.”


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