On his second day in Beirut, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, David Hale called on the government to achieve the objectives of the Lebanese people, renewing his country’s readiness to cooperate with Lebanese authorities and with friends and allies in the region to help Lebanon and the Lebanese.
However, the US official stressed that Washington will not interfere in the internal Lebanese affairs.
“I can see a great deal of work is needed to achieve the goals and objectives that the Lebanese people have long advocated for – a concerted effort to root out corruption; financial and economic reforms; and a transformation of Lebanon’s institutions, things like establishing state control over the ports and borders, revamping the electricity network, and reexamining the social safety network,” Hale said after a meeting with the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai.
The US official met Friday with President Michel Aoun, caretaker Prime Minister Diab, Speaker Nabih Berri to discuss the aftermath of the Aug. 4 explosion at the port.
Sources close to the matter told Asharq Al-Awsat that, during the Hale-Aoun meeting, the US official did not directly discuss the issue of the government formation or the issue of Hezbollah and Iran.
The sources said Hale’s visit is to show support to the Lebanese people with hopes that authorities start necessary reforms to fight corruption, release CEDRE funds and the IMF cooperation with Lebanon.
The presidential office said Hale conveyed condolences to Aoun from US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the victims of the Beirut Port explosion.
The US official also stressed his country’s stand by Lebanon and the Lebanese in the current ordeal.
“Hale pointed out that the US President’s directives are that the US be present and ready for help, thanking President Aoun for Lebanon’s agreement to receive a team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to participate in the investigations being conducted by the Lebanese judiciary, presenting his observations during his visit to the Port and Gemayzeh region,” the Presidential statement said.
For his part, Aoun confirmed that investigations are undergoing to reveal the circumstances of the Beirut Port explosion, and that help is required in knowing the circumstances of the ship which was loaded with Ammonium Nitrate, arriving and unloading at the Beirut Port.
He welcomed the US FBI team to assist the Lebanese side in investigations, and indicated that a number of current and former officials at the Port have been summoned for investigation.
Sources close to Hariri said that the meeting between the former PM and Hale focused on the need to quickly reconstruct the destruction left by Beirut’s explosion and to work on an urgent plan for facing its repercussions and resume reforms to stop Lebanon’s economic and financial collapse.
“For the longer run, we cannot accept more empty promises and more dysfunctional governance. I hear demands for real reform with transparency and accountability. America is ready to support a Lebanese government that reflects and responds to the will of the people and genuinely commits to and acts for real change,” Hale said from Bkriki.