U.S. favoring Lebanese military aid

Aug. 26, 2010 at 11:35 AM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- It is important to U.S. and Lebanese national security interests to continue providing assistance to the Lebanese military, the U.S. State Department said.

U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Aug. 9 he was withholding roughly $1 million in military aid to Lebanon because he was concerned about Hezbollah's influence over the military.

His decision followed a gun battle between Israeli and Lebanese forces during the first week of August that left four people dead, including an Israeli lieutenant colonel.

Mark Toner, a deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department, told reporters during his daily press briefing, that U.S. officials were reviewing Berman's decision.

Military aid to Lebanon, he stressed, was vital to U.S. and Lebanese security interests.

"It underscores the importance, both to our national security and the security of the region, to continue with our security assistance to the Lebanese army," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama had asked lawmakers in 2009 to consider increasing military aid to Lebanon by $98.4 million.

Iran responded almost immediately after Berman's announcement with pledges of support for the Lebanese military.

Berman's decision came on the same day that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said he had evidence to suggest Israel played a role in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

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