Rep. Lantos to Put Hold on Aid to Lebanon

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A congressman said Sunday he would ask the U.S. administration to freeze the $230 million aid package to Lebanon proposed by President Bush until the Lebanese government takes control of its borders with Syria and prevents arms smuggling to Hezbollah guerrillas.

Rep. Tom Lantos, the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, spoke after meeting with senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

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Lantos said he told Olmert the U.S. aid package to Lebanon was important, "but that this package should be withheld until the Lebanese government displays responsibility."

"A porous Syrian-Lebanon border will only invite the repetition of Hezbollah attacks in the future. Hezbollah must not be allowed to rearm again," he said.

Israel fought Hezbollah for 34 days after the guerrillas crossed the border July 12 and attacked an Israeli patrol, killing three soldiers and capturing two others. A U.N.-brokered cease-fire that took effect Aug. 14 stipulated the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese troops along the border with Israel, backed by a 15,000-strong U.N. force.

However, the cease-fire resolution only called on the Lebanese government to secure the border with Syria, saying the U.N. force could help, but only if asked by Lebanon.

Israel's Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Cabinet on Sunday that Israel expects the international community to control Lebanon's border crossings.

Lantos said he aimed to put a temporary hold on the aid package until the Syrian border was secured.

Visit's Mideast center for full coverage.