U.S. Intelligence Chief: We Should Keep up Lebanon Military Aid

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The United States should maintain military aid to the Lebanese army even if the government becomes controlled by Hizbullah, U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper said Thursday.

"I would think that to the extent that we can sustain influence and insight and help counterbalance the Hizbullah military wing, that it would be a good idea," Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told U.S. lawmakers.

But he said it would be up to policymakers to take such a decision.

In late January, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned against Hizbullah -- designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group -- coming to power, saying it would clearly impact the ties between Lebanon and the United States.

Washington is above all concerned whether the Lebanese army will be able to control Hizbullah, which has backed billionaire businessman Najib Miqati as prime minister and was appointed on January 25 to form a new government.

"The concern has been continually for not only ourselves, but for some of our allies, is in terms of the (Lebanese army) and its ability in the southern part of the country to exert the control over other factions that are in there, such as Lebanese Hizbullah," said Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

"So what this means to the future of that is something that we are following very closely at this time."

Washington has given Lebanon more than 700 million dollars in aid to help train and equip the army since a devastating war between Israel and Hizbullah in 2006.

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