Naharnet

Report: Gates Approves Halt to Arms Delivery to Lebanon

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved a freeze on weapon shipments to the Lebanese army following the collapse of Caretaker Premier Saad Hariri’s government in January, said The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

The decision underlines growing concerns about Hizbullah's role after the party and its allies named Najib Miqati as premier-designate.

Despite the new move, defense officials told the American newspaper that the U.S. is continuing to provide training and non-lethal assistance to the Lebanese army, describing the ties that are active as "robust."

A senior defense official said the Pentagon is now reviewing all U.S. security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces "during this period of government formation."

A second U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal that the Obama administration would base future decisions about security assistance, including whether to renew deliveries of lethal arms, after assessing the composition and conduct of the next government.

U.S. lawmakers had moved to block aid to the Lebanese army in August after a deadly clash between the Israeli and Lebanese armies in the border town of Adeisseh, but the congressional freeze was only temporary.

Congressional aides said new legislation is likely to be introduced in the coming weeks to cut off assistance if the next Lebanese government is dominated by Hizbullah.

However, The Wall Street Journal said that U.S. defense officials want to keep some level of support for the Lebanese armed forces. Though weakened, officials say, the LAF are likely the only state institution with a chance of maintaining stability.


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