Tug-of-war over U.S policy on Beirut

Feb. 11, 2011 at 1:10 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A top U.S. State Department official said Beirut will be judged by its actions, though a senior lawmaker said the rise of Hezbollah was a key policy failure.

Hezbollah lawmakers led opposition leaders in mass resignations last month that brought down the Western-backed government of Saad Hariri. Hezbollah was upset with Hariri's support for a tribunal investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was Saad Hariri's father.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg testified before members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee saying Hezbollah used threats of violence to topple the government and usher in its favored candidate, Najib Mikati, to power.

He said Washington would wait to pass judgment on Beirut as negotiations continue on the shape of a new government.

"We will be watching Prime Minister Mikati to see whether he makes good on his public pledge to build a broad-based government that represents all sections of Lebanese society," he said in his prepared statement.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the committee, said however that Hezbollah's growing influence in Lebanon was because "responsible nations" did little to press for political reforms in Beirut.

"Clear standards for participation in elections and institutions must be both articulated and implemented to ensure that destructive actors are not afforded the opportunity to hijack an incipient democratic process," she said.

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