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U.S. official visits Lebanese officials

Oct. 25, 2011 at 8:25 AM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- A U.S. diplomat arrived in Beirut as the United States ramped up pressure on Lebanon to fund a U.N.-backed probe into the 2005 slaying of Rafik Hariri.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jacob Walles, along with U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly, met with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati Tuesday, to discuss the current situation in Lebanon and the region, as well as U.S.-Lebanon bilateral relations, The Daily Star in Beirut reported.

Walles' agenda also included meetings with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and other government officials.

The visit came after the United States warned Lebanon it could face "serious consequences" if it doesn't fund the U.N.-supported Special Tribunal for Lebanon established to investigating Hariri's assassination, the newspaper said. The comment was made during a meeting Monday between Connelly and Free Patriotic Movement leader and lawmaker Michel Aoun.

Connelly "expressed the United States' concern that a failure by Lebanon to meet its obligations to the [Special] Tribunal [for Lebanon] could lead to serious consequences," a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy said.

Despite the warning, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said his party remained against financing the special tribunal. Nasrallah called for a Cabinet vote if ministers cannot agree on the divisive issue. Hezbollah opposes the tribunal, which issued an indictment in June that accused four of the terrorist organization's members of involvement in the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese prime minster.

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