Susan Rice: 'Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran endanger Lebanon'

US Ambassador: Syria displays "flagrant disregard" for Lebanese sovereignty; Syrian official: Rice "gave credibility to wrong facts."

susan rice close up 284.88 AP (photo credit: )
susan rice close up 284.88 AP
(photo credit: )
UNITED NATIONS — The United States on Thursday accused Hizbullah and its allies Iran and Syria of attempting to endanger Lebanon's stability and undermine its independence.
US Ambassador Susan Rice singled out Syria for displaying "flagrant disregard" for Lebanon's sovereignty and political independence, citing its provision of increasingly sophisticated weapons to Hizbullah and other militias in violation of a UN resolution and issuance of 33 arrest warrants for senior Lebanese officials and foreigners.
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"Hizbullah remains the most significant and most heavily armed Lebanese militia," she said. "It could not have done so if not for Syria's aid, and facilitation of Syrian and Iranian arms."
Rice delivered the statement on behalf of the Obama administration to reporters outside the UN Security Council where members were holding a closed-door meeting Thursday on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's latest report on Lebanon.
She said the United States welcomes Ban's report, which stressed the continuing threat to Lebanon's sovereignty and security posed by Hizbullah and other armed militias.
"We continue to have deep concerns about Hizbullah's destructive and destabilizing influence in the region as well as attempts by other foreign players, including Syria and Iran, to undermine Lebanon's independence and endanger its stability," Rice said.
Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said Rice "gave credibility to wrong facts, wrong information," pointing out that the secretary-general's report says senior Lebanese officials confirmed to the UN Secretariat that no weapons smuggling took place across the Syria-Lebanon border.
Many Lebanese fear that if the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri — the current prime minister's father — accuses members of Hizbullah in his killing, the government could collapse and clashes could erupt between Shiite fighters and Hariri's mainly Sunni allies.
Hizbullah and Syria have mounted a campaign to try to undermine the tribunal by raising questions about its neutrality. Earlier this month, Syria's judiciary issued arrest warrants against 33 Lebanese officials and foreigners for allegedly misleading the investigation, among them figures close to Saad Hariri and the first UN chief investigator, Detlev Mehlis.
Rice said Hizbullah is not accountable to Lebanon's democratic institutions.
"The United States urges all friends and neighbors of Lebanon to play a constructive role in supporting the Lebanese government in good faith," she said. "We remain firmly committed to a sovereign, stable and independent Lebanon with strong Lebanese institutions. This is the only way to secure the best interests of the Lebanese people and the region as a whole."