U.S. to aid Lebanese border defense

Dec. 7, 2011 at 1:32 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Washington is willing to help the Lebanese military secure its borders, a U.S. diplomat said during a visit with Lebanon's prime minister.

Jeffrey Feltman, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, arrived Wednesday in Beirut to discuss regional affairs. His visit follows a rare public appearance by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who told supporters that while he saw the need for some reforms, he stood by his allies in Syria.

With concerns growing over the possible regional fallout from the potential for civil war in Syria, Feltman said Washington was committed to helping the Lebanese military secure its borders, The Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon reports.

The United Nations estimates at least 4,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed during the Syrian uprising against President Bashar Assad since mid-March.

Assad, in an English-language interview with ABC News, denied most of the allegations that his government was responsible for the atrocities spelled out by the United Nations.

"We don't kill our people," he said. "No government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person."

The government, he added, has made a series of pledges of reform that it says appeals to the protesters' demands.

Feltman, in written statements to U.S. lawmakers last month, said armed resistance to the Syrian government was becoming commonplace but warned of playing into the regime's hands.

"By working diligently to channel non-violent opposition into a proto-insurgency, the regime seeks to discredit the opposition, scare minorities into submission, unite security forces against a common enemy, fragment international consensus and tear Syria apart along sectarian lines," he testified.

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