March 14 opposition official Fares Soaid said Friday that the main objective of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman’s visit to Beirut was to inform Lebanese officials that allowing Iran to increase its influence in Lebanon after the fall of the Syrian regime would cause a standoff between Beirut and the international community.
In remarks to An Nahar newspaper, Soaid, who is the March 14 general-secretariat coordinator, said: “The U.S. and Iran are convinced that the Syrian regime is nearing its end but neither Washington nor Tehran have an interest in announcing this regime’s burial” yet.
“There is an open conflict on the inheritance of the regime in Lebanon,” he said, adding that “Iran is seeking to put its hands on that legacy through the current government that is controlled by Hizbullah.”
“Feltman came to inform everyone that walking in that direction would put Lebanon in trouble with the international community,” Soaid stressed.
The U.S. diplomat wrapped up his visit to Beirut on Thursday with talks with President Michel Suleiman, Premier Najib Miqati, Phalange party leader Amin Gemayel, ex-PM Fouad Saniora, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut Elias Audeh, and March 14 politicians.
The U.S. embassy said he discussed with them “the political, economic, and security situation in Lebanon, developments in Syria, and other regional issues.”
But media reports said Friday that in his talks with the Lebanese officials, Feltman warned against instability in Lebanon over the Syrian crisis and the ultimate fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
As Safir daily said he asked Suleiman whether he thought Assad would remain in power.
“Why wouldn’t he?” Suleiman told Feltman, according to As Safir. “The solution comes through dialogue between the regime’s supporters and the opposition to end further bloodshed … and agree on any democratic rule that the Syrians want.”
The reports said that Feltman also stressed the need for Lebanon to respect constitutional deadlines with regard to the 2013 parliamentary elections.
According to al-Mustaqbal daily, Feltman inquired the March 14 officials whom he met at the residence of MP Butros Harb about their preparations for the polls and whether there were any differences between them.
When hearing their criticism of the current cabinet’s inability to hold the elections and its alleged incompetency, the diplomat told the opposition members that it is not up to the U.S. to decide whether the government should stay.
His meetings with Lebanese officials coincided with a visit to Beirut by Iranian Vice President Mohammed Reza Rahimi.
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