President Michel Aoun denied on Wednesday that Hezbollah’s Influence over Lebanon is Increasing
“It is not true that Hezbollah’s influence over Lebanon is increasing.” He stressed
“This is the U.S. vision and it contradicts with reality, seeing as Hezbollah has maintained the same political presence it had in the previous government, and it is not true that its influence over Lebanon is increasing,” Aoun a close ally of Hezbollah told a delegation from the Editors Syndicate, when asked about the U.S. concerns over Hezbollah.
“What some political circles say sometimes in this regard is mere bickering and even at the security level they say that Hezbollah has influence in the South and the Bekaa but there is no security authority higher than that of the army and security forces, which carried out major security operations recently in the region and consolidated security and stability,”Aoun added.
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard held talks Tuesday with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and relayed to him U.S. concern over Hezbollah’s “growing role in the Cabinet.”
Hizbullah “continues to make its own national security decisions” and “continues to violate the government’s disassociation policy by participating in armed conflict in at least three other countries,” the ambassador said.
Warning that “this state of affairs does not contribute to stability” and is “fundamentally destabilizing,” Richard added that she was very hopeful that Lebanon “will not be derailed from the path of progress now before it.”
Hezbollah has named a health minister and two other posts in the new Cabinet. U.S. officials have called on Hariri’s government to make sure Hezbollah is not funded by the state institutions .
Hezbollah continues to be active in Yemen, Syria and Iraq despite the government’s disassociation policy.
The United States is the primary supplier of the Lebanese Army. The United States delivered a shipment of laser-guided rockets to the Lebanese Air Force on the Feb. 13 – part of a military aid package to Lebanon valued at $16 million.
Air Force Brigadier General Ziad Haykal said yesterday the the close air support jets give an additive value to the LAF capabilities not previously found in the national air force.
Haykal stressed the importance of the U.S. military aid program to Lebanon, which is the framework used for delivery of the six A-29 Super Tucano aircraft.
“The U.S. is the primary supplier of military equipment to Lebanon,” he said. “The aid has made the difference in our battle against terrorists.”
In a Feb. 13 statement, the U.S. embassy in Lebanon said the delivery demonstrates the U.S. government’s firm and steady commitment of support to the Lebanese Armed Forces in their capacity as the sole, legitimate defender of Lebanon.