Only hours after the Lebanese army intercepted the weapon-laden ship Lutfallah II off Tripoli’s coast, the Lebanese media was buzzing with reports attributed to security and political officials and claiming that the Lebanese army had received intelligence information from “major Western states,” with some saying that the U.S. was behind the intelligence tip-off.
The reports spoke of an arms shipment destined for the Syrian opposition, which Washington feared would end up in the hands of pro-Qaida gunmen practicing their activities in Syria and Lebanon – which further allowed the army to intercept the ship and seize its cargo.
And following the Lebanese General Security’s arrest of Shadi al-Mawlawi in Tripoli on charges of communicating with a terrorist organization and the angry reactions that ensued, the director general of the Lebanese General Security announced that Mawlawi was arrested following a tip-off the General Security had received from “major western powers”, concerning the activity of a Jordanian Qaida militant who had managed to infiltrate Lebanon and a Qatari national who had been financing a terrorist network.
But official sources at the U.S. Embassy in Awkar confirmed to Naharnet that although U.S. authorities sometimes coordinate with the Lebanese security and military agencies, the embassy learned about Mawlawi’s arrest from the media, stressing that any arrests are a domestic Lebanese affair that only concerns the Lebanese authorities and their security and military agencies.
Asked whether the U.S. had provided the Lebanese agencies with intelligence information and reports following concerns over the recent growth of fundamentalist and Salafist movements in Tripoli, and over the growing influence of the supporters of these movements among the ranks of the Syrian opposition in a manner that would serve the interests of al-Qaida and extremism, official U.S. sources noted that Washington is closely following the situation in Tripoli, given the unprecedented intensity of clashes which have been influenced by the events behind Syria’s border, expressing regret over the death and wounding of dozens of people in armed confrontations.
“We are concerned with what is going on in Lebanon and Syria, and concerned with the situation in Tripoli in particular and about the situation in general. Lebanon has suffered a lot over the past years and it deserves to see an end to its suffering. The U.S. is closely following the humanitarian situation caused by these developments and it supports the right of Lebanon and its people to stability, sovereignty and independence, and it hopes to see an end to the threats it is suffering due to the situation in Syria,” the sources added.
Asked about the presence of any U.S. role in the interception of the ship Lutfallah II, the sources said any such remarks are fabricated by the overblown imagination of some Lebanese. “The U.S. is helping the Lebanese army boost its capacity and capabilities, and what is important is that the army has become capable of uncovering such things,” the sources said, adding that the German unit belonging to the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force and the Lebanese navy were in charge of monitoring Lebanon’s territorial waters.
And on whether the U.S. believed that the events in Tripoli were sparked by the al-Qaida network and its supporters, the official sources at the U.S. Embassy said those who are active on the ground might have a certain point of view which does not necessarily mean that they are al-Qaida members.
The sources added: “Anyway, if al-Qaida members had managed to enter Lebanon, the Lebanese authorities would be obliged to arrest them.”
Asked about remarks by some Lebanese parties accusing Hizbullah and its allies of blowing up the situation in Tripoli to alleviate the pressure on the Syrian regime, the official sources at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut said it was not a coincidence that the clashes in Tripoli were pitting the supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime against each other, noting that the U.S. does not have any direct evidence of any role played by Hizbullah or other parties.
Addressing recent remarks by Arab Democratic Party official Rifaat Ali Eid that calm will not be restored in Tripoli except through the return of the Syrian army to Lebanon, the official sources at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut said: “The Syrian army is preoccupied with other things in Syria these days.”
“We don’t believe that the issue is on the table and we rule out such a possibility,” the sources added.
Asked whether the U.S. had sent specific messages for the Syrian regime on the need not to blow up the situation in Lebanon, the official sources at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut noted that Washington’s embassy in Damascus was closed.
“Nowadays, we don’t have much to say to the Syrian regime except for the need to stop killing their people and to step down. Naturally, Syria is receiving messages from us through certain channels, but the embassy in Lebanon is exclusively concerned with Lebanese-American relations,” the sources added.
Commenting on the Christian situation in light of events in the Arab world in general, and the situation in Syria and its repercussions on Lebanon, the official sources at the U.S. embassy in Lebanon said the future perspective of human rights and public and private freedoms requires a positive approach from Christians.
The sources called on Christians to open the doors of dialogue regarding these worrying issues, pointing out that focusing on fears overlooks a constructive solution.
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