Beirut should ‘reject options dictated from abroad,’ says US envoy

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield speaks during his meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (AP)
Updated 05 March 2019
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Beirut should ‘reject options dictated from abroad,’ says US envoy

  • Satterfield’s visit to Lebanon is expected to pave the way for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

BEIRUT: US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield said in Beirut that Lebanon should reject “options dictated from abroad,” stressing that the “US will do everything in its power to support Lebanon’s national options.”

Satterfield, who had been assigned the territorial and naval border dispute file between Lebanon and Israel on the Blue Line and in the exclusive economic zone, arrived in Beirut on Monday evening to brief the Lebanese officials on the results of the Warsaw Conference, which was held in mid-February and devoted to discuss “the impact of Iran and its terrorism in the region.”

Satterfield’s visit to Lebanon is expected to pave the way for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited the region in mid-January. He did not visit Lebanon at the time but his visit included Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan.

A source at the US Embassy did not confirm Pompeo’s visit. He told Arab News that he does not “rule out his visit to Lebanon.”

Satterfield said in brief statements after meeting a number of Lebanese officials, who did not include President Michel Aoun, that his country was “deeply committed to Lebanon and would like to see it move forward and face its options.”

He also said after meeting Lebanese Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, that“the US and other countries will deal with Lebanon according to the way in which Lebanon will adopt these options, which we hope will be positive for the benefit of Lebanon and its people, not for the benefit of foreign parties.”

“Lebanon now has a new government to take sensitive decisions related to the country’s economy, security and combating corruption,” he added.

The US official, accompanied by US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, visited Prime Minister Saad Hariri. During the meeting, they discussed “the latest developments, the general situation in Lebanon and the region and the bilateral relations between the two countries,” according to the media office of the prime minister.

After his meeting with MP Sami Gemayel, leader of the Lebanese Phalange Party, Satterfield said that his tour in Lebanon “comes after the formation of the government and in light of the changes in the region. There is a US desire to see real stability and security in Lebanon, and this depends on its national options, not on dictated options.”

“Lebanon has long suffered from conflicts and ideologies promoted from abroad,” he said.

“This situation must change and there must be serious decisions in this context. The parties in Lebanon are effective and there must be national action in this direction. The US will do everything in its power to support Lebanon’s national options.”


US accuses Iran of destabilizing Mideast with missile program

Updated 18 min 12 sec ago
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US accuses Iran of destabilizing Mideast with missile program

  • Cites Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon
  • Says Iran's ballistic missile test and satellite launches violated UN Security Council resolution

JEDDAH: Iran’s missile program is destabilizing the Middle East, and Tehran risks starting a regional arms race by supplying weapons to armed groups in Lebanon and Yemen, a senior US arms control official said on Tuesday.

“Iran must immediately cease activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and halt the proliferation of missiles and missile technology to terror groups and other non-state actors,” Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, said in a speech to the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Iran’s missile program is a key contributor to increased tensions and destabilization in the region, increasing the risk of a regional arms race,” she said, denouncing Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

She said Iran had provided ballistic missiles to the Houthis that were fired into Saudi Arabia and unmanned aerial systems to Houthi groups that enable strikes against land-based targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “We are committed to aggressively countering Iran’s regional proliferation of ballistic missiles and its unlawful arms transfers,” she said.

US President Donald Trump said when he quit the 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities that the agreement failed to rein in Iran’s missile program or curb its regional meddling.

The US has accused Iran of defying a UN Security Council resolution by carrying out a ballistic missile test and two satellite launches since December.

Poblete urged “all responsible countries” to enforce UN Security Council resolutions restricting the transfer of missile-related technologies to Iran. She also accused Iran of “pursuing pharmaceutical-based agents for offensive purposes,” but did not provide details.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said Iran had the largest ballistic program in the Middle East. “Through its ballistic missile program, the Iranian regime appears determined to escalate tensions in the region and seek every opportunity to project its power in order to reassert its hegemony,” he said. “The international community ought to hold Tehran accountable for its military adventurism and violations of international standards.”