Pull aid to Lebanon, U.S. lawmaker says

June 14, 2011 at 1:29 PM

WASHINGTON, June 14 (UPI) -- Washington should cut aid to Lebanon because of the emergence of Hezbollah in a newly formed Cabinet, a U.S. lawmaker complained.

Hezbollah retained two ministers in a Cabinet unveiled Monday by Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. The resistance movement's March 8 coalition, however, secured the majority in a government that was apparently sanctioned by Damascus.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in response that Washington should cut off the funding for Lebanon.

Hezbollah led the toppling of the government of Saad Hariri while the former prime minister was on a visit to Washington in January. The group was upset with Hariri's support for a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister's father.

Hezbollah had two Cabinet positions in the Hariri government. U.S. lawmakers last year mulled withholding the roughly $100 million in military aid to Lebanon because of Hezbollah concerns but reversed course after classified briefings indicated the Lebanese military was able to handle the assistance responsibly.

"We cannot undo past mistakes but we can learn from them and safeguard taxpayer dollars going forward," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "The U.S. should immediately cut off assistance to the Lebanese government as long as any violent extremist group designated by the U.S. as foreign terrorist organizations participates in it."

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