Pompeo to Visit Lebanon, Kuwait, Israel in March
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Tuesday that he will be making a visit to Lebanon, Kuwait and Israel in the coming days.
An informed Lebanese source told Asharq Al-Awsat that he is expected to kick off his tour in mid-March.
Talks are set to promote US economic policies, Pompeo told a farmers’ group in rural Iowa.
Meanwhile, US Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield was in Beirut ahead of the top US diplomat’s visit.
He stressed on Tuesday that the new Lebanese government must make tough decisions as it tackles widespread corruption and a crumbling economy.
He held talks with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, head of the Kataeb party MP Sami Gemayel and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat.
Satterfield said Washington is looking to support the Lebanese people as they move their country forward, but warned against increased Iranian influence.
The eight-year war in neighboring Syria has deepened Lebanon's economic woes, which include high unemployment, meager growth and a soaring public debt of $85 billion, or 155 percent of the gross domestic product. Some 1 million Syrian refugees make up a quarter of Lebanon's population.
Satterfield said Iran's growing influence in Lebanon required a national response, adding that "parties, notably Iran, are not passive, they're very active."
He added that the US will exert all possible efforts to support Lebanon’s national choices. Such choices will help the country escape foreign conflicts and ideologies.
Washington wants real security and stability in Lebanon and this hinges on its national choices, not dictates imposed on it, he continued.
In January, Lebanese political factions agreed to form a new government after the country's first parliamentary elections in nine years.
The US has expressed concerns about Hezbollah naming a health minister and two other posts in Lebanon's cabinet and called on the new government to ensure the ministries' resources do not provide support to the party.