Thursday, January 13, 2011

US monitoring 'closely' Lebanon crisis: Pentagon

WASHINGTON, January 13, 2011 (AFP) - The United States is keeping a close eye on the situation in Lebanon after the Beirut government collapsed following the resignation of Hezbollah, the Pentagon said Thursday.

"We do know that political tension, unrest and especially any violence that might follow are threats to regional stability and security," said Pentagon spokesman David Lapan.

Asked whether Washington would send any warships to patrol the waters off Lebanon, he said no ships had been sent yet.
The Department of Defense and "the US government desires that all parties use peaceful means to resolve the situation. We continue to monitor the situation very closely," Lapan said.

The United States, which is a major supplier of military aid to Lebanon, "has a valuable relationship with Lebanese armed forces and we're committed to do what we can to strengthen the sovereignty of the institutions as well as of the government of Lebanon."

In a sweep led by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, 11 ministers withdrew from Prime Minister Saad Hariri's government on Wednesday evening, providing the minimum number of resignations to automatically dissolve the 30-member cabinet.

The move was linked to a long-running dispute over the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is reportedly set to indict high-ranking Hezbollah operatives in the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, Saad's father.

The resignations came after a Saudi-Syrian bid to defuse tensions over the tribunal failed to find a compromise between the two rival camps.