Petraeus' Visit Focuses on Military Assistance

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 14, 2008 | Go to article overview

Petraeus' Visit Focuses on Military Assistance


Byline: Simon Roughneen, THE WASHINGTON TIME

BEIRUT -- Gearing up to take over the U.S. Central Command for the Middle East in September, Gen. David H. Petraeus last week paid a surprise visit to Beirut to meet Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon said the meetings focused on the United States' assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, so it can maintain peace and stability, and safeguard the Lebanese people.

However, the stopover last week came just a day after the Lebanese government agreed on a new manifesto, claiming the right of Lebanon, its people, its army and its resistance to liberate its land in the Shebaa Farms, Kfarshuba Hill and Ghajar, areas currently under Israeli control.

The resistance refers to Hezbollah, which in May received an effective veto in a new national unity government deal brokered in Doha, Qatar, after its fighters overran much[bar] of Beirut.

The Lebanese parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the new government, which gives Hezbollah and its allies 11 out of 30 seats in the Cabinet.

Hezbollah - listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Britain, Israel, Australia and the Netherlands - is also able to retain its arsenal under the national unity government - a blow to the credibility of the U.N. Security Council, which has ordered Lebanese militias disarmed.

The Iran-backed Shi'ite Hezbollah militia is advancing at the expense of the pro-Western March 14 coalition, a Sunni-led amalgam that includes Druze and some Christian allies.

Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told U. …

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