Hariri Denies New US Pressure on Lebanon
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Friday set aside negative expectations from his visit to Washington by asserting Washington’s political and economic support to Lebanon.
Hariri’s comments came a day after meeting in Washington with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who warned that Lebanon is a nation threatened by Hezbollah.
According to observers, Hariri made the clarifications to stress that the US differentiates between dealing with Lebanon and Hezbollah, especially in terms of US assistance to enforce the country’s stability, in addition to Washington’s role in demarcating the southern border with Israel and helping in oil and gas exploration.
“The US is keen to continue to work on resolving the land and sea borders definition issue,” Hariri told reporters on Friday.
“We are working on the issue of land and sea borders, so that we can begin negotiations in a way that is comfortable to us,” he explained.
Sources close to Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal Movement told Asharq Al-Awsat that the PM’s clarifications dispelled concerns about US dissatisfaction with the way Lebanon handles several issues.
"I heard all support for the Lebanese army. Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's statement is clear on this issue.
“Everyone knows how the Americans view Hezbollah, but he asserted his country's political and economic support to Lebanon through the CEDRE Conference, the international institutions and the implementation of the reforms that we pledged,” Hariri told reporters.
About the US administration’s stance from the performance of the Lebanese government, especially on Hezbollah’s arsenal, Hariri said: "This issue happened in the past and is happening now. There is a discussion with the US administration and internally, but I do not want to go into details. We are trying to find the best way to avoid putting Lebanon in danger.”
Asked about the Saudi-Lebanese relations, the PM said: “We are working with Saudi Arabia to achieve 23 joint economic agreements, and work is also underway with the UAE. Therefore, the relationship between us has returned to what it was before and maybe better, and there are continued contacts with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf on important issues."
On US sanctions against Hezbollah, Hariri said: "We cannot change the view of the American administration regarding these sanctions, but what we are trying to do is to spare Lebanon any consequences in this regard."
And whether the sanctions will affect Lebanese banks or financial institutions, Hariri said the Americans issue their sanctions lists without any prior notification to the Lebanese state. “There may be several queries about a specific institution or another, but I am sure that there is nothing tangible yet,” he said.