US envoy visits Beirut, mediating in Lebanon-Israel dispute

Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Satterfield, is in Beirut as part of a US shuttle diplomacy effort to resolve tensions between Israel and Lebanon over a border wall and energy drilling in disputed waters. (Reuters)
Updated 21 February 2018

US envoy visits Beirut, mediating in Lebanon-Israel dispute

BEIRUT: A senior US diplomat met Lebanon’s foreign minister on Wednesday in Beirut as part of a US shuttle diplomacy effort to resolve tensions between Israel and Lebanon over a border wall and energy drilling in disputed waters.
Disputes over Israeli construction of the border wall, Lebanon’s start of oil and gas exploration at sea and the growing arsenal of Lebanon’s Iran-backed group Hezbollah have caused a spike in tensions between Lebanon and Israel, both friends of the United States that regard each other as enemies.
Lebanon this month signed its first offshore energy exploration and production agreements with a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek. One of two blocks given to the consortium, Block 9, contains waters claimed by Israel.
, has been shuttling back and forth between Israel and Lebanon in a bid to resolve the disputes.
He met Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Wednesday in Beirut. The two had last met on Friday, after which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri reiterated Lebanon’s rejection of US proposals to resolve the maritime dispute as “unacceptable.”
This was an apparent reference to a maritime demarcation line proposed by US diplomat Frederic Hof in 2012, which would give Lebanon around two-thirds and Israel around one-third of a disputed triangular area of sea of around 860 sq km (330 square miles).
A senior Lebanese government source said Satterfield did not come with any new plan, and talks still revolve around the Hof line.
A source in the foreign ministry said he discussed the disputed area, how Lebanon can preserve its rights and how to keep exploration and drilling from being affected.
Satterfield left without making any public comments.
The US Embassy in Lebanon said Satterfield “continues to engage” on regional issues and on helping Lebanon develop its resources in agreement with its neighbors.


US targets five Iranian officials for blocking election candidates

Updated 19 min 47 sec ago

US targets five Iranian officials for blocking election candidates

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday slapped sanctions on five Iranian officials in charge of vetting candidates for this week's parliamentary elections, in which thousands have been barred from running.
The targeted officials include Ahmad Jannati, a powerful cleric accused of overseeing the disqualification of candidates as part of the Guardian Council. The ultra-conservative also plays a key role in a body that selects the regime's supreme leader.

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"The Trump Administration will not tolerate the manipulation of elections to favor the regime's malign agenda, and this action exposes those senior regime officials responsible for preventing the Iranian people from freely choosing their leaders," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.