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Friday, January 14, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Military aid to Lebanon sustained, for 'stability'

WASHINGTON — The United States plans to continue military and security aid to the collapsed government in Lebanon.


The administration of President Barack Obama said the collapse of the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri would not block U.S. plans to provide combat platforms and other military aid to Lebanon. Officials said the administration would maintain current military and security assistance programs as Hariri seeks to form another ruling coalition.

"We're committed to Lebanon," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. "We're committed to its stability. And it is within that context that we provide military and other assistance to Lebanon."

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In a briefing on Jan. 12, Crowley said the State Department was monitoring coalition efforts in Lebanon in wake of the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah's decision to withdraw from the Hariri government, Middle East Newsline reported. Crowley said political uncertainty would not hamper U.S. military and security aid programs. Eleven out of 30 ministers in the Hariri government resigned and the prime minister was asked to head a caretaker government.

"But at this point, Lebanon will work to put together a new government, and we'll see what emerges," Crowley said.

Since 2006, the United States has provided nearly $750 million in military and security assistance to Lebanon, about a third of that over the last year. Officials said the administration has been working on plans to supply Lebanon with main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Congress has warned that a Hizbullah-dominated Lebanese military could use American combat platforms against Israel as well as U.S. interests in the region. In August 2010, the House froze $100 million in U.S. military aid, a decision that was rescinded four months later.

Officials acknowledged an increase in tension since the fall of the Hariri government. They said both Israel and Lebanon have placed their militaries on alert along their mutual border.

"We decry the motives of Hizbullah and what they've obviously tried to do to continue to intimidate the government and use this activity as a pressure tactic," Crowley said.

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