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US ends freeze on $100 million in Lebanon aid

AFP
Washington
US President Donald Trump’s administration said on Monday it has released $100 million in military assistance to Lebanon that had been quietly frozen for months amid US complaints about the clout of Hezbollah.
A State Department official and a congressional aide, both speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the assistance has been unblocked by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. “The money is good to go,” the State Department official said.
The Trump administration has been tight-lipped on the reason for the hold-up in support for Lebanon but has been pressing the government to distance itself from Hezbollah, the Shiite militant movement close to Iran.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who included Hezbollah members in his cabinet, resigned a month ago in the face of major street protests.
The State Department official said there had been “some disagreements about the efficacy of US aid” to the Lebanese Armed Forces.
But the official defended the military as a “national institution” in a country long divided on confessional lines, and praised its “high level of capability” in fighting extremists such as Al Qaeda and the IS movement. “It defends Lebanon’s borders; it is an excellent partner to the United States in counterterrorism and fighting Sunni jihadi Islamists,” the official said.

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