Pompeo warns of Hezbollah's 'destabilizing activities' during Lebanon visit

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Mike Pompeo meets with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, in Beirut. (Reuters)
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Mike Pompeo meets with Lebanon's President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon. (Reuters)
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Mike Pompeo meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri at the governmental palace in Beirut. (Reuters)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Lebanon's Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan at the Interior Ministry in Beirut, Lebanon March 22, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 22 March 2019
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Pompeo warns of Hezbollah's 'destabilizing activities' during Lebanon visit

  • US secretary of state flew in from Israel for two days of meetings in Lebanon
  • Holds meeting with parliament speaker Nabih Berri

BEIRUT: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Friday of Hezbollah's "destabilising activities" as he visited Lebanon on the latest leg of a regional tour to build a united front against Iran.
He flew in from Israel a day after he became the first high-ranking American official to visit the Western Wall in annexed east Jerusalem with an Israeli prime minister.
His visit also comes just hours after US President Donald Trump said Washington should recognise Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, breaking with the policy of successive administrations as well as UN Security Council resolutions.
In a meeting with parliament speaker Nabih Berri Pompeo warned of the "destabilising activities" of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed group that is targeted by US sanctions but holds cabinet posts in Lebanon.
"He highlighted US concerns about Hezbollah's destabilising activities in Lebanon and the region and the risks posed to Lebanon's security, stability and prosperity," US deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said.
Hezbollah has backed government forces in neighbouring Syria in the civil war that broke out in 2011

But Berri, a political ally of Hezbollah, also told Pompeo sanctions on Hezbollah were having a "negative impact on Lebanon and the Lebanese". He said Hezbollah's "resistance" against Israel was a result of continuing Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory, his office said in a statement.
Pompeo and Berri also discussed "the need to maintain calm along the boundary between Lebanon and Israel", Palladino said.
Lebanon and its southern neighbour are still technically at war, even after Israeli troops withdrew from the south of the country in 2000.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating month-long war in 2006, and skirmishes still erupt along a UN-patrolled demarcation line.
The secretary of state then met Prime Minister Saad Hariri to discuss "the latest developments in Lebanon and the region", according to the premier's office.
Earlier, he met the country's first female interior minister.
"Pompeo met in Beirut today with Lebanese Minister of the Interior Raya Al-Hassan," Palladino said.
They "discussed the regional and internal security challenges facing Lebanon and how the United States can help support the interior ministry's efforts to maintain safety and stability inside Lebanon."
Hassan became the first woman interior minister in Lebanon and the Middle East in a cabinet line-up unveiled in late January following an eight-month delay.
The United States considers Hezbollah a "terrorist" organisation, and has targeted it with tough sanctions.
Lebanon's new cabinet includes three posts for Hezbollah, including at the helm of the health ministry.
The Shiite movement is the only group that did not disarm after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.
Earlier this week, Lebanese intelligence said a Lebanese-Canadian dual national had been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel.
Pompeo is expected to leave Lebanon on Saturday.


Iraq must not be dragged into another regional war: president

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with Iraq’s President Barham Salih in London, Britain June 25, 2019. (The Presidency of the Republic of Iraq Office/Reuters)
Updated 19 min 10 sec ago
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Iraq must not be dragged into another regional war: president

  • ‘We cannot afford our country to be dragged into conflict’
  • Saleh said Baghdad’s priority was ‘stability’

LONDON: Iraqi President Barham Salih said Wednesday his country must not be dragged into another conflict in the Middle East, as tensions rise over its neighbor Iran.
“We have had four decades of challenge and turmoil. We do not want to be embroiled in another war,” he said at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs think-tank in London.
“We cannot afford our country to be dragged into conflict.”
With tensions high between Iran and the United States, Salih insisted his country would not become “a staging post for belligerents.”
“We are asking everybody to cool it down... enough is enough,” he said.
“We do not want to be a victim of a conflict in Middle East. We have not finished the last one,” the Iraqi president added, referring to the US-led war on terror and battle against Daesh.
“It is in our national interests to have good relationship with Iran,” he said, whilst adding: “The US is a very important partner for Iraq.”
Salih, who took office in October, said Baghdad’s priority was “stability.”
“We need to transform Iraq from a zone of regional and proxy conflict into a zone of trade, infrastructure development, and jobs and a future for young people,” the 58-year-old said.
Salih visited British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday for talks on security cooperation and nation-building.
May said Britain “stood ready to provide further support” to the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, her Downing Street office said.