Obama to Hariri: Hizbullah must be disarmed

Lebanese prime minister Hariri’s pro-Western faction has increasingly made statements supportive of Hizbullah.

saad hariri 311 (photo credit: AP)
saad hariri 311
(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama stressed the importance of implementing UN resolutions that call to disarm Hizbullah and preventing the transfer of weapons to the group, during a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri Monday afternoon.
Obama also underscored the importance of ensuring that Iran comply with its nonproliferation obligations, a major focus of the UN Security Council, which Lebanon currently heads.
The message was repeated in several meetings with top US officialsduring Hariri’s two-day visit here, his first official trip as premier.Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman put out a statementfollowing their meeting mentioning “the need for full implementation ofall relevant Security Council Resolutions” among US priorities forLebanon.
Hariri’s pro-Western faction has increasingly made statementssupportive of Hizbullah – which wields veto power within his governmentcoalition – and reached out to Syria as part of a complicated politicaldance in the fractious country. Before his trip to Washington, Hariristopped in Damascus for consultations with Syrian President BasherAssad.
Though the US values its ties with Hariri and wants to encourage his pro-West movement, it eyes these overtures with concern.
In a recent example of rhetoric that irked America, Hariri dismissedIsraeli reports that Hizbullah had acquired Scud missiles transferredfrom Syria, by comparing them to the false American allegations thatIraq had weapons of mass destruction ahead of the 2003 US-led invasion.
That attitude has caused re-evaluation in certain DC quarters of thegenerous military assistance the US has given the Lebanese army.
Obama “expressed his determination to continue US efforts to supportand strengthen Lebanese institutions such as the Lebanese Armed Forces”during his meeting with Hariri, according to a White House statement.But the Lebanese prime minister was expected to face a tougherreception Tuesday on Capitol Hill, which holds the purse-strings forthe military aid.
“With the changed equation on the ground, are we still committed tobuilding this national institution?” was how David Schenker of theWashington Institute for Near East Policy summarized their thinking.
Speaking ahead of Hariri’s meetings Tuesday, Schenker continued, “WhenHariri goes up to Congress today, he’s going to hear a mouthful.”
At the same time, Hariri used the visit to push for more action on a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
During his meeting with Obama, after which there was no pressconference or photo opportunity, with only an official photo released,Hariri told the president that the “clock is ticking” on Mideast peaceand that failure to reach an agreement will lead to more violence andextremism in the region.
And in an op-ed in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times,Hariri declared that “Mideast peace is now a global problem. And globalproblems call for global solutions and global leadership. Today thisleadership responsibility falls primarily on the United States.”
He praised Obama’s efforts in the peace process, saying, “This effort should not be allowed to fail.”
In his statement, Feltman agreed that realizing a goal of lasting,comprehensive peace “will help the region move forward and enjoygreater prosperity and stability. The importance of achieving this isclear to everyone.”
He added that the US would not support the forced naturalization ofPalestinian refugees in Lebanon and emphasized that “there can be nolasting solution reached at Lebanon’s expense.”
AP contributed to this report.