Wednesday, August 11, 2010

US blocks military aid to Lebanon, for fear that arms could be used against Israel


In this photo taken on Nov. 22, 2009, Lebanese soldiers stand on their American-made M-60 tanks, during a military parade to mark the 66th anniversary of Lebanon's independence from France in 1943, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon. For years, the U.S. has pumped money into Lebanon's military, hoping a strengthened army would extend state authority across the country and sideline Iranian-backed Hezbollah's powerful militia. The U.S. chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Monday Aug. 9, 2010 he has suspended U.S. military aid to Lebanon's army amid growing concern in Congress that American-supplied weapons could threaten Israel.


A US congressman has blocked 100 million dollars (76 million euros) in aid to Lebanon's military. Howard Berman says he cannot be sure the country's armed forces are not working with Hezbollah.

The Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee pointing to last week's deadly clash between Israeli and Lebanese troops along the countries' shared border.

"Until we know more about this incident and the nature of Hezbollah influence on the LAF [Lebanese Armed Forces], and can assure that the LAF is a responsible actor; I cannot in good conscience allow the United States to continue sending weapons to Lebanon," Berman said.

He added that the United States must conduct an in-depth policy review of its relationship with the Lebanese military.

The move came hours after representative Eric Cantor called for the funding hold, warning that the lines between the Shia movement and Lebanon's armed forces had become blurred.

"The days of ignoring the LAF's provocations against Israel and protection of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon are over," said Cantor, the number two Republican in the House of Representatives.

Cantor said the United States had provided roughly 720 million dollars since 2006 in military aid to build up a Lebanese fighting force that would serve as a check on the growing power of the Islamist Hezbollah movement.

Relations between Israel and Lebanon have been strained in the wake of the deadly exchange of fire last week which killed two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist, as well as an Israeli officer.

Israel on Tuesday slammed as "ridiculous" accuastions by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah that it was behind the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.

Nasrallah on Monday unveiled footage allegedly intercepted from Israeli surveillance planes of the site where Hariri was killed in a bombing in February 2005, which he claims were taken ahead of the killing.

RFI

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