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US Envoy in Lebanon Says 'Page Turned' after Interview Ban

US Envoy in Lebanon Says 'Page Turned' after Interview Ban

Monday, 29 June, 2020 - 18:15
US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea speaks during a news conference after meeting with Lebanese FM Nassif Hitti at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut, Lebanon June 29, 2020. (Reuters)

The US ambassador in Lebanon said on Monday the page had been turned on an incident sparked by a court ruling banning media in the country from interviewing her after she heaped criticism on the Hezbollah movement.

A judge in the southern city of Tyre ruled on Saturday that comments made by Ambassador Dorothy Shea had incited sectarian strife, and banned media in Lebanon from interviewing her for a year.

The foreign minister summoned Shea to the ministry on Monday.

“We turned the page on this unfortunate distraction so we could all focus on the real crisis at end, which is the deteriorating economic situation in Lebanon,” Shea told journalists at the foreign ministry after the meeting.

The United States classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti emphasized the importance of media freedom and the right to free expression during the meeting, the ministry said in a statement.

The government had repudiated the court ruling, while criticizing Shea over the remarks that had prompted it.

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad tweeted that while she understood the judge's concerns about diplomats meddling in Lebanon's internal affairs "no one had the right to prevent the media from covering news, or to curb press freedoms".

In one of several media appearances on Sunday, Shea described the ruling as a "really pathetic" attempt to silence the media, and said the government should focus more on implementing economic reforms.

Lebanon is grappling with an acute economic crisis seen as the worst threat to its stability since the 1975-90 civil war.

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