Washington (Reuters) – The administration of US President Donald Trump withheld $ 105 million in security assistance for Lebanon, two US officials said Thursday, two days after Lebanon's prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, resigned.
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators Swing Lebanese Flags During Protest in Beirut, Lebanon, October 31, 2019 Reuters / Goran Tomashevich / File photo
The State Department told the White House and Council Budget on Thursday national security had decided to refuse foreign military assistance, the two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Officials do not say why the aid was blocked. One source said the State Department was not giving Congress a reason for the decision.
The State Department declined comment.
The administration sought approval for assistance, beginning in May, arguing that it was crucial for Lebanon, an important US partner in the volatile Middle East, to be able to protect its borders. The assistance included night-vision goggles and weapons used to guard the borders.
But Washington has also repeatedly expressed concern about the growing role in the Beirut government of Hezbollah, an armed Shiite group backed by Iran and listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.
Following Harry's resignation on Tuesday amid massive protests against the ruling elite, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Lebanese political leaders to help form a new government that meets the needs of its people and called for an end to endemic corruption.
An American official told Reuters that he believed security assistance was needed for Lebanon, as it was battling instability not only within its own government but in a turbulent region and sheltering thousands of refugees from the war in neighboring countries. Syria.
The official said it was especially important to strengthen the Lebanese army, which he considered one of the most capable institutions in the country at present, largely because of Washington's support.
An official said that the withdrawal of assistance from Lebanon could pave the way for Russia to cross. Russia expanded its influence in Syria after Trump announced he was withdrawing US forces from the northeast.
Lebanon has been in dispute for months with foreign donors for international aid. Before resigning, Hariri failed to persuade foreign donors to release the $ 11 billion in aid promised at a conference in Paris last year.
Report by Patricia Sengerle and Mike Stone; Editing by Mary Miliken and Daniel Wallis