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U.S. backs military aid to Lebanon

Sept. 23, 2010 at 4:39 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. commitment to Beirut includes assistance to the Lebanese armed forces, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy said in Beirut.

Undersecretary Michele Flournoy met in Beirut with top Lebanese leaders, including Prime Minister Saad Hariri, during her first official visit to Beirut.

She told reporters her visit was meant to convey to the prime minister Washington's support for Lebanon's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. She stressed that Washington considered U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding Hezbollah's weapons a top concern.

U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Aug. 9 he was withholding roughly $1 million in military aid to Lebanon because he was concerned about Hezbollah's influence over the military.

His decision followed a gun battle between Israeli and Lebanese forces during the first week of August that left four people dead, including an Israeli lieutenant colonel.

Flournoy, however, said that Washington's support for Beirut included military aid.

"This commitment includes U.S. support to the Lebanese armed forces, which is part of an international effort to help strengthen the institutions of the Lebanese state and the ability of the Lebanese government to exercise its sovereignty and authority over all of its territory," she said.

She added that Washington was working with U.S. lawmakers "to resolve the concerns" over military assistance.

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