Lebanon fighting threatens Bush's efforts

BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 10 (UPI) -- One of U.S. President George W. Bush's top three priorities in the Middle East -- stabilizing Lebanon -- is on the verge of collapse, observers said Saturday.

The Washington Post reported that since violence erupted this week, the Bush administration has tried to mobilize international support for Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.


The U.S. government has spent $1.3 billion during the past two years to help Siniora's beleaguered government. Of that aid, about $400 million was dedicated to boosting Lebanon's security forces.

Even so, Hezbollah, the Shiite militia financed by Iran and Syria, has the Siniora government under virtual siege, the newspaper said.

Augustus Richard Norton, who served with the United Nations in Lebanon and is the author of "Hezbollah: A Short History," said a security solution in Lebanon will have to include Hezbollah.

"The (United States) has put a lot of capital into Lebanon to support the weaker side politically and militarily," he said. "The U.S. approach is based on (the idea that) one side can prevail, and that's not how things work. This is a country where consensual politics is the name of the game and the way things are done."


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