Exclusive: U.S. withholding $105 million in security aid for Lebanon -
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[November 01, 2019]
By Patricia Zengerle and Mike Stone
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President
Donald Trump's administration is withholding $105 million in security
aid for Lebanon, two U.S. officials said on Thursday, two days after the
resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.
The State Department told Congress on Thursday that the White House
budget office and National Security Council had decided to withhold the
foreign military assistance, the two officials said, speaking on
condition of anonymity.
The officials did not say why the aid was blocked. One of the sources
said the State Department did not give Congress a reason for the
The State Department declined to comment.
The administration had sought approval for the assistance starting in
May, arguing that it was crucial for Lebanon, an important U.S. partner
in the volatile Middle East, to be able to protect its borders. The aid
included night vision goggles and weapons used in border security.
But Washington has also repeatedly expressed concern over the growing
role in the Beirut government of Hezbollah, the armed Shi'ite group
backed by Iran and listed as a terrorist organization by the United
Following Hariri's resignation on Tuesday amid huge protests against the
ruling elite, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Lebanon's
political leaders to help form a new government responsive to the needs
of its people and called for an end to endemic corruption.
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Demonstrators wave Lebanese flags during a protest in Beirut,
Lebanon, October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo
One U.S. official told Reuters he believed the security assistance
was necessary for Lebanon, as it struggles with instability not just
within its own government but in a turbulent region and houses
thousands of refugees from war in neighboring Syria.
The official said it was especially important to strengthen
Lebanon's military, which he deemed one of the most capable
institutions in the country now, largely because of support from
The official said drawing aid away from Lebanon could pave the way
for Russia to move in. Russia has expanded its influence in Syria
since Trump announced he was withdrawing U.S. forces from the
northeastern part of the country.
Lebanon has been arguing with foreign donors over international aid
for months. Before he resigned, Hariri failed to convince foreign
donors to release $11 billion in assistance pledged at a Paris
conference last year.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Mike Stone; Editing by Mary
Milliken and Daniel Wallis)
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