saad hariri 311.
(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON – A top
US counterterrorism official said Friday that the US makes no
distinction between different wings of Hizbullah, further pushing back
against suggestions that the US might change its policy toward the
Shi’ite organization.The two leaders will
discuss a “broad range of mutual goals in support
of Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, regional peace and security,”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Friday.
“We still do not subscribe to the division
that some other countries do, including close friends of ours, that
there might be a political or humanitarian wing on the one hand and a
military wing on the other and we would talk to one and not the other,”
Daniel Benjamin, coordinator for counterterrorism at the State
Department, told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “We
emphatically reject such a distinction.”
US to ‘strengthen Hizbullah moderates’
Hizbullah arms of 'grave concern'
US to Syria: Stop Hizbullah arms
He stressed, “There’s
been no policy change regarding Hizbullah. We’ve changed nothing
regarding the contacts policy regarding Hizbullah.”
followed remarks days earlier by US Deputy National Security Adviser
John Brennan that some saw as a sign of a shift toward the group, though
the White House has also said there has been no change in policy.
Tuesday, Brennan said that the West needs to “try to build up the more
moderate elements within Hizbullah,” in a discussion of the group’s
evolution from a purely terrorist organization to one that now also has
members serving in the Lebanese government.
Benjamin, who was
responding to a question on the controversy, described Brennan’s
comments as “an analytic remark.”
But the Republican Jewish
Coalition on Friday denounced Brennan’s words as “dangerously naïve.”
also criticized him for a speech in February to an Islamic Center in
which he referred to Jerusalem by its Arabic name, “Al-Quds.”
that case, Brennan said, “In all my travels, the city I have come to
love most is Al-Quds, Jerusalem, where three great faiths come
Obama to raise 'grave concerns' regarding Syria, Hizbullah
President Barack Obama will likely raise the US’s “grave
concerns” about Syria’s arming of Hizbullah with Lebanese Prime Minister
Saad Hariri when the two meet on Monday, Reuters reported over the
Israel believes that Syria recently supplied Hizbullah with hundreds of
surface-to-surface missiles, including Scud missiles and advanced M-600
missiles capable of targeting Tel Aviv and causing extensive damage to
Israel. Syria has denied the claims while Hizbullah has refused to
respond to them. Hariri has denied the allegations, comparing them to
the American charges that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ahead of
the 2003 US-led invasion.
At their meeting, Obama and Hariri will also discuss international
efforts to isolate Iran over its nuclear program. Lebanon is the current
rotating president of the UN Security Council, a position it holds
until May 31.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to