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US urges respect for Lebanon's sovereignty

The statement was issued by the White House [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 November, 2017

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The United States urged all states and parties to respect Lebanon's sovereignty on Saturday, following a power vacuum created by the prime minister's sudden resignation in Riyadh.

The United States urged all states and parties to respect Lebanon's sovereignty on Saturday, following a power vacuum created by the prime minister's sudden resignation and growing concerns for his safety and freedom in Riyadh.

"The United States calls upon all states and parties to respect Lebanon's sovereignty, independence, and constitutional processes," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The United States considers Hariri a "trusted partner," it said, and "firmly reiterates that the Lebanese Armed Forces and other Lebanese state security forces are the only legitimate security authorities in Lebanon."

"In this sensitive time, the United States also rejects any efforts by militias within Lebanon or by any foreign forces to threaten Lebanon's stability, undermine Lebanese government institutions, or use Lebanon as a base from which to threaten others in the region," it added.

In a shock statement issued last weekend from Riyadh - where he is rumoured to be held against his will - Saad Hariri accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hizballah of taking over his country and destabilising the region, saying he feared for his life.

Hariri's statement has fuelled fears that Lebanon - split into rival camps led by Hariri and Hezbollah - would be caught up in spiralling tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Two US officials said the Saudis had “encouraged” Hariri to leave office while Lebanese officials say he is being held in Saudi Arabia, a charge Riyadh denies. Hariri has not commented publicly on whether he is free to come and go as he pleases.

The White House statement echoed an appeal issued by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday, who is traveling in Asia with President Donald Trump. Tillerson warned other countries against using Lebanon for proxy conflicts.

Tillerson's message seemed aimed mainly at Iran and Hizballah, the powerful Shia organisation that is both a militia and part of Hariri's government.

Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said he believed the Trump administration was still seeking to help the Saudis advance their interests against Iran without destabilising the region.

“This is a delicate balancing act. It involves supporting allies in a policy that the administration agrees with, while trying to mitigate aspects of it that it (sees as) overstated,” Takeyh told Reuters.

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