Last Update 16:22
Sunday, 26 May 2019

In Lebanon, US State Dept official calls Hezbollah "unacceptable"

Reuters , Monday 14 Jan 2019
David Hale, Saad al-Hariri
US David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the Department of State, gestures as he talks with Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon January 14, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)
Share/Bookmark
Views: 1576
Share/Bookmark
Views: 1576

The US State Department criticised Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group on Monday for digging tunnels into Israel and stockpiling rockets, as Washington steps up efforts to isolate Tehran.

In recent weeks, Israeli forces uncovered tunnels they said were dug by Hezbollah, and Lebanon complained about Israel's construction of a barrier along disputed parts of the border.

The United States, Israel's closest ally, regards Hezbollah as a terrorist group and has pledged tougher steps to counteract Iranian influence in the region, but it has also reiterated its backing for the Lebanese government - which includes Hezbollah representatives - and army.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week vowed to expel "every last Iranian boot" from Syria, where Iran has been fighting alongside Hezbollah, and where Israel has been carrying out strikes against both.

"While Lebanon has the right to defend itself, that is the right of the Lebanese state alone," said David Hale, US under secretary of state for political affairs, after meeting Lebanese prime minister designate Saad al-Hariri.

"It is unacceptable to have a militia outside the control of the state, and unanswerable to all people of Lebanon digging attack tunnels across the blue line to Israel or assembling an arsenal of over 100,000 missiles with which to threaten regional stability," he added.

Israel, which regards Hezbollah as the biggest threat on its borders, on Sunday said it had completed efforts to find and destroy tunnels under the frontier that it said the group had dug to infiltrate fighters during a future war.

Hezbollah has not commented on the tunnels. Lebanon's National Security Council last week said an Israeli border wall that crosses into territory claimed by Lebanon, constitutes an act of aggression.

However, both sides appear ready to contain matters for now. "Israel's interest is to keep the (situation) quiet. I think for them (Hezbollah), that interest is even greater," Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot said last week after completing his term as Israeli army chief.

Oil Dispute

Hezbollah was set up by Iran in the early 1980s to fight Israel's occupation of south Lebanon, but it retained its weapons after Israeli forces withdrew in 2000 and has become the strongest political force in the country.

The last conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, fought on Lebanese soil, was in 2006. A United Nations Security Council resolution ending that conflict called for work to delineate the border, but the frontier has still not been agreed.

The border dispute has also affected Lebanese plans to drill for oil and gas near an area of sea claimed by both countries.

Hale's visit comes as Lebanese politicians continue to jostle over the formation of a new coalition government more than eight months after an election.

Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's caretaker government and is expected to be included in any new coalition formed by Hariri.

Lebanon's failure to form a new government was dragging down the economy and "endangering the country", Hale said, and urged the caretaker government to move forward on the economy to maintain international confidence.

Short link:

 

Email
 
Name
 
Comment's
Title
 
Comment
Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.
Latest

© 2010 Ahram Online.