U.S. Drops Hold on Aid to Lebanese Military

Published November 13, 2010

| The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—U.S. lawmakers lifted a congressional hold on $100 million in military assistance for Lebanon's armed forces, as the Obama administration moved to bolster Beirut's pro-Western government.

In recent weeks, the militant Lebanese organization, Hezbollah, has issued increasing threats against Prime Minister Saad Hariri amid reports that a United Nations-backed court is preparing to indict Hezbollah members for the 2005 murder of Mr. Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Washington has provided Lebanon's military with an estimated $720 million in aid since 2006 in an effort to develop the institution as a counterweight to Hezbollah, which receives its arms and funding from Iran and Syria, and has grown as a political force with seats in the Lebanese government.

"We reviewed our assistance to Lebanon and concluded that it is vital, given ongoing challenges to the Lebanese state from Hezbollah and others," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday.

The White House and State Department have pressed senior Democrats in Congress in recent weeks, particularly Howard Berman (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to lift its hold on military assistance, in a bid to strengthen Mr. Hariri's government against Hezbollah's growing power, according to U.S. officials.

Mr. Berman has voiced concerns about the Lebanese military's independence from Hezbollah and the possibility that some U.S. military aid could be used against Israel.

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