US warns of growing Hezbollah influence as Lebanon nears agreement on new government
Officials claim a new Cabinet will be formed in the next few days
The US called on Lebanon to set up a government soon, after Lebanese officials on Tuesday said the country was on track to form a new Cabinet in the coming days.
Lebanon has been without a government since elections held in May.
Officials in Beirut accused Hezbollah of delaying progress because of its demand that its Sunni allies be represented in government – a demand that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri rejected.
Hezbollah and its allies in the Amal Movement said on Tuesday that Lebanon is on track to form a new government in the next few days.
Unidentified Hezbollah sources told Lebanon’s Al Markaziya news agency that the main snag had been resolved after President Michel Aoun agreed to cede one of his bloc’s seats in government to Hezbollah-allied Sunni MPs.
"We hope Lebanon's next government will build a stable and secure Lebanon that is committed to peace, responsive to the needs of the Lebanese people and working with the United States on areas of mutual interest," a US State Department official told Reuters on Tuesday.
"We continue to have deep concerns regarding Hezbollah's growing political power inside Lebanon," the official said. "We are concerned about the efforts of Hezbollah's political allies that provide it with top cover and a veneer of legitimacy."
The May 6 election, Lebanon's first in nine years, produced a parliament tilted in favour of the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, which together with its political allies won more than 70 of the 128 seats.
Hezbollah is expected to receive three ministries in the coming Cabinet, including the health ministry.
The US is the biggest backer of the Lebanese army, providing more than $1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) in support since 2006.
Updated: December 19, 2018 04:38 PM