US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
The Obama administration warned Lebanon's political leaders on Monday
that continuing US support for their country will be difficult if the
militant Hizbullah movement takes a dominant role in government.Clinton says the US wants an independent sovereign Lebanon and is concerned about "outside forces."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned that formation of a
Hizbullah-dominated government in Lebanon will mean changes in the US
political and economic relations with the country.
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US is considering exactly how to respond to the new government forming
this week in Beirut, but cuts or realignment of military aid to Lebanon
are likely if the militant group controls key parts of the government.
The makeup of the Lebanese government is Lebanon's decision, the US
State Department said. But the larger the role for Hizbullah, the "more
problematic" for relations with Washington, State Department spokesman
P.J. Crowley said.
The United States considers Iranian-backed Hizbullah as a foreign
terrorist organization and has imposed sanctions against it and its
members. US officials do not meet with Hizbullah members and US money is
not supposed to be used to further the group's activities.
Crowley's comments came as Hizbullah moved into position to control the
next Lebanese government as it secured enough support in parliament to
nominate the candidate for prime minister.
"Our view of Hizbullah is very well-known," he told reporters. "We see
it as a terrorist organization, and we'll have great concerns about a
government within which a Hizbullah plays a leading role."
Crowley would not say what the United States would do should Hizbullah's
candidate become prime minister and be able to form a government, but
he said it would be hard to carry on business as usual if that should
Asked whether the US would be able to continue economic support for a
Hizbullah-controlled government in Lebanon, he replied, "That would be
difficult for the United States to do."
The United States has provided Lebanon with hundreds of millions of
dollars in economic and military aid during the past five years,
following withdrawal of Syrian forces that had controlled the country
The United States called the fragile Lebanese democracy a counterweight
to authoritarian and militant influences in the Middle East. Washington
underwrote Lebanon's army as a counterweight to Hizbullah, and argued
that without US support Iran or Syria might fill the vacuum.
Congressional critics of that policy cite a worry that the weapons and
equipment could slip into the hands of Hizbullah for use against Israel.
Hizbullah, which forced the collapse of the Lebanese coalition
government last week, fought a month-long war with Israel in August 2006.
Since 2006, the United States has provided four kinds of security
assistance to Lebanon, the bulk of which has been about $500 million in
sales of weapons and equipment such as mortars, rifles, grenade
launchers, ammunition, body armor, radios and Humvee utility vehicles.
The US also has increased its spending on military education and
training for Lebanese officers and on programs designed to improve
Lebanon's ability to counter terror threats.
Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, former chairman of the House Foreign
Affairs Committee, was among lawmakers who last year blocked $100
million in US military aid to Lebanon. They relented and allowed the
money to go through after the White House gave assurances in classified
briefings that the aid would bolster both Lebanese and US national
security and would not be hijacked by Hizbullah.
Berman's successor as head of the committee, Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has raised similar objections.