WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) -- A top U.S. diplomat says it is possible the militant Hezbollah organization could make electoral gains in Lebanon, if Syria withdraws from that nation.
"In view of potential developments on the ground, which open the scope for true, free and fair elections, the possibility does exist that Hezbollah (also known as Islamic Jihad) will be able to obtain more parliamentary seats than it otherwise would have been able to," David Satterfield, acting assistant secretary of state for near east affairs Wednesday told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He said Hezbollah was popular because it is perceived as honest, stepping in where the Lebanese government has failed to provide basic services.
The United States regards Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.
There have been intense protests in Lebanon against the Syrian troop presence in the country following the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The slain leader opposed the Syrian presence in his country.
Satterfield returned to Washington Tuesday from a trip to Lebanon where he met with government and opposition leaders.