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U.S. rep. irked by Hezbollah 'takeover'

Feb. 10, 2011 at 12:23 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Washington must do more to support democratic institutions in Lebanon because of the Beirut "takeover" by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, a U.S. lawmaker said.

Hezbollah in January led opposition lawmakers in mass resignations that brought down the Western-backed government of Saad Hariri. Hezbollah was upset over Hariri's continued support for a tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was Saad Hariri's father.

Hezbollah is expected to be implicated by the tribunal. Hezbollah lent its support to Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati but insisted the former Hariri ally was a consensus candidate.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during a committee hearing on the political turmoil sweeping across the Middle East that trends in Beirut were troubling.

"In Lebanon, we have witnessed the takeover of the country by the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis," she said in her statement. Developments in Beirut and those in Egypt, she said, showed Washington "failed to develop and implement a longer-term strategy to move beyond the status quo and prepare for the future."

She complained that despite Hezbollah gaining political influence in Lebanon, Washington continued to provide military aid and political support to the Lebanese government.

"Even now, when the Lebanese government has been overthrown, the United States has still failed to indicate that it will cut off assistance to a proxy government for Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah," she complained.

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