lantos, tom 88.
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American aid to Lebanon should be held up until the country agrees to allow international forces to patrol its border with Syria, US Representative Tom Lantos of California said Sunday in Jerusalem.
Lantos, a Holocaust survivor on his 68th visit to Israel, also said he planned to file bipartisan legislation for Israel to receive reconstruction aid.
"It would be singularly unfair and inequitable in the wake of this disaster to have aid flow to one party, which basically allowed the provocation, but not to the other victims," he said. "Lebanon will get help from Europe, the Arab world and the United States. And unless the United States provides some aid to Israel, Israel will not receive aid."
Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, wouldn't specify how much money would be under consideration.
He stressed that he would seek to prevent any funds going to Lebanon until it allowed for an expanded UNIFIL presence on the border.
"The international community must use all our available means to stiffen Lebanon's spine and convince the government of Lebanon to have the new UNIFIL troops deployed on the Syrian border in adequate numbers," he said. "To provide aid while allowing a porous Lebanon-Syria border will only invite the repetition of a Hizbullah attack in the future. Hizbullah must not be allowed to rearm."
US President George W. Bush has slated $230 million to be sent to Lebanon to help with rebuilding efforts.
Lantos was in Lebanon Saturday, where he met with the country's leaders.
He stressed that his aim was not to punish Lebanon, and called his hold on the legislation, which he can impose as the ranking Democrat on the International Relations Committee, "a friendly hold."
"No one wants to see that hold removed more than I do," he said. "But I am convinced that the government of Lebanon must take the necessary steps to make Lebanon a fully sovereign country."
Lantos noted that in 2001 he pressed for the US not to give aid to Lebanon as long as Hizbullah wasn't disarmed. He blasted the Bush administration for not implementing that policy, endorsed by both houses of Congress.
"At that time, the administration chose to sweep the problem under the carpet, and now the disaster has happened," he said. "I am convinced that, had my legislation been implemented, the tragedy of recent weeks could have been prevented, would have been prevented, and moreover, a thousand precious Lebanese and Israeli lives would have been saved."
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