Lebanese official: Biden to visit Lebanon Friday

VP expected to meet President Suleiman in show of support ahead of elections that could see gov't ousted by Hizbullah-led coalition.

Biden stresses point 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Biden stresses point 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
US Vice President Joe Biden will visit Beirut this week in a show of support for the Lebanese president ahead of crucial elections that could see a US-backed government ousted by a Hizbullah-led coalition, a Lebanese official said Tuesday. Biden is expected to meet President Michel Suleiman on Friday and convey "a message of support" from President Barack Obama to "Lebanon's president, government and people" as the country moves toward the June 7 parliament elections, the official told The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Biden's visit comes less than a month after a similar trip by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The fiercely contested elections are pitting Western-backed and anti-Syrian groups on one side against a Hizbullah-led coalition supported by Syria and Iran. There are concerns the balloting could further boost Hizbullah and its allies, which hold veto power in Lebanon's current government. A strong showing by the militant Shi'ite terrorist group could also see its sponsors Iran and Syria gain influence in the region. Lebanon's private LBC Television said Biden's planned visit reflects "American and European concerns" about the possibility of the Hizbullah-led alliance winning the elections. During a brief stop in Beirut on April 26, Clinton said after talks with Suleiman that the United States, which has reached out to Iran and Syria, will never make a deal with Syria that "sells out Lebanon." US officials have said they would review aid to Lebanon, including military assistance, depending on the composition of the next government. The United States has provided $1 billion in aid since 2006, including $410 million in security assistance to the Lebanese military and the police.