Lebanon’s defense minister today lashed out at a US decision to halt aid to his country’s army in the wake of a deadly border clash with Israel, protesting that aid was being made conditional.
“Whoever sets as a condition that the aid should not be used to protect Lebanon’s land, people and borders from the (Israeli) enemy can keep their money,” Defense Minister Elias Murr told a news conference. “Let them keep their money or give it to Israel. We will confront (Israel) with the capabilities we own.”
“We welcome any unconditional offer of aid to the Lebanese army, and if anyone announces they have decided to halt that aid, they are free to make that choice,” he said.
Murr’s bitter comments were in reaction to a US decision to freeze military aid to Lebanon following last week’s clash between Israeli and Lebanese troops that left four dead.
It also came after Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, said Tehran was ready to help the Lebanese army in a meeting with army chief Jean Kahwaji, according to Iran’s official IRNA agency.
An advisor to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman has also criticized the US decision but said that support for the army was central to upholding Lebanon’s sovereignty.
“It is time the Lebanese army be adequately armed, and we are counting on the friends of Lebanon to help the army,” Nazem Khoury told AFP.
US Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Monday he had placed on hold $100 million in aid to Lebanon’s military.
Berman, in a statement, said he could not be sure the Lebanese armed forces were not working with Hezbollah, which Washington lists as a terrorist organization.