Feltman Meets Jumblat ahead of Talks with Top Officialsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman arrived in Lebanon on Tuesday for talks with Lebanese leaders.
Feltman is accompanied by a U.S. delegation comprising top Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee and also sits on the Armed Services Committee. Lieberman met in Riyadh Monday with Saudi King Abdullah and other senior officials as part of a Middle East tour to discuss the Syria crisis, his office said.
Feltman and the delegation began their talks in Lebanon by meeting Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat at his Clemenceau residence.
The meeting was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly, Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi, Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, MP Alaeddine Terro, PSP deputy chief for foreign affairs Dureid Yaghi and Jumblat’s son Taimur.
LBC television reported that a work dinner would follow the meeting in Clemenceau and that Feltman will not make any statements.
“The U.S. embassy is expected to issue a communiqué at the end of the visit tomorrow evening,” LBC said.
During his meetings with Lebanese officials, Feltman “will demand stricter control of the border (with Syria) and will urge the government to control low security areas and respect the timetable of the upcoming parliamentary elections,” MTV reported.
“The main message carried by Feltman is related to the (nuclear) negotiations conducted by the U.S. with Iran and Feltman will voice support for Lebanon and stress that it has not been abandoned despite these negotiations,” MTV added.
After his separate talks with Jumblat and the March 14 forces, Feltman will meet with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in Maarab to congratulate him for his safety in the wake of the recent attempt on his life, MTV said.
Feltman is also expected to hold meetings with President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Miqati.
An Nahar newspaper reported that MP Boutros Harb will host a dinner banquet in honor of Feltman in the presence of several March 14 forces figures.
U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton telephoned on Monday Suleiman to laud his call for implementing democracy in political practice and expressed her country’s support for such a call.
She also revealed that her envoy Feltman will travel to Lebanon to follow up on the situation in the Arab world.
Suleiman and Clinton’s talks addressed local and regional developments and ways to bolster bilateral ties, according to As Safir newspaper.
Meanwhile, in a clear reference to Senator Lieberman, An Nahar reported that a senior U.S. congressman was expected to arrive in Lebanon and head to the northern Lebanese border to check the situation along the border with Syria.
Lieberman met in Riyadh on Monday with King Abdullah, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz -- who recently held talks at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to discuss the Syria crisis -- and General Intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz.
"The senator is traveling in the Middle East this week, focused on the continuing crisis in Syria and other issues related to U.S. national security in the region," Lieberman aide Whitney Phillips told Agence France Presse.
It is the second trip to the region in three weeks for Lieberman. He visited a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey near the Syrian border earlier in April.
The independent mostly caucuses with Democrats but he is hawkish on national security and, along with Republican John McCain, has advocated further U.S. intervention in Syria, including the arming of Syrian opposition groups against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
And while he stressed he wants "no (U.S.) boots on the ground" in Syria, he was adamant about the need to provide more substantive military aid.
"At some point we simply have to say, 'we're going to help them, we're going to give them weapons to defend themselves,' and that will make them strong and more organized," Lieberman said last week at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
On Sunday he was in Qatar, where he met with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khaled al-Attiyah, Phillips said.