x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

US unblocks $100m in military aid for Lebanon

The money for the country's under-equipped army was held up following a deadly shoot-out in August with Israeli troops along the border.

BEIRUT // Two members of the US House of Representatives have lifted a block on military aid to Lebanon's under-equipped army that was imposed in the wake of a deadly shoot-out in August along the restive border with Israel.

The aid, more than $100 million (Dh367.2m), was blocked by Howard Berman, the Democratic chairman of the house foreign affairs committee, and Nita Lowrey, a Democrat who heads a subcommittee on foreign aid.

The lawmakers had imposed their blocks after a border clash between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israeli military in August killed four people, including a high-ranking Israeli officer, and seriously wounded several more.

Although technically at war with Israel, the LAF rarely engages Israel in favour of letting the Shiite militant group Hizbollah maintain security along the frontier. A key component of US support for the government includes bolstering the LAF to offset the more powerful and effective Hizbollah militia.

In the wake of the August shooting Mr Berman placed a hold on new aid to the LAF until the incident was investigated fully.

Mr Berman's office announced that he was satisfied with the review of the incident and would lift his objection to continuing aid to Lebanon, which has gotten more than $700m from the US Congress since 2006, according to the US Embassy in Beirut. "As a result [of the review], I am convinced that implementation of the spending plan will now have greater focus, and I am re-assured as to the nature and purposes of the proposed package," Mr Berman said in a statement posted on his web site.

Ms Lowrey, who has significant authority over foreign aid, also said Friday, through a spokesman, that her concerns about the funding for the LAF had abated.

 

mprothero@thenational.ae