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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Lantos: Withhold aid to Lebanon until troops secure border

Al-AP is reporting that US Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) has pledged to block any aid package to Lebanon until Lebanon agrees to the deployment of international troops on the Lebanese - Syrian border. Syria regards the deployment of international troops on its border with Lebanon as a 'hostile act,' and Lebanon has said that it does not want troops deployed there. The troops would act to prevent the transfer of arms from Syria and Iran to Hezbullah.

U.S. Representative Tom Lantos said Sunday that he would ask the U.S. administration to freeze the U.S. $230 million aid package to Lebanon proposed by President George W. Bush until the Lebanese government takes control of its borders with Syria and prevent arms smuggling to Hezbollah guerrillas.

Lantos, the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, spoke after meeting with senior officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Lantos, from California, said he told Olmert that the U.S. aid package to Lebanon was important, "but that this package should be withheld until the Lebanese government displays responsibility," he said. "A porous Syrian-Lebanon border will only invite the repetition of Hezbollah attacks in the future. Hezbollah must not be allowed to rearm again."

... the cease-fire resolution only called on the Lebanese government to secure the border with Syria, saying the UN force could help, but only if asked by Lebanon. Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Cabinet on Sunday that Israel expects the international community to control Lebanon's border crossings.

Lantos said he aimed to put a temporary hold on the aid package until the Syrian border was secured.

"My purpose is not to withhold aid from Lebanon, but to persuade the government of Lebanon that the closing of the Lebanon-Syria border to arm smuggling from Iran and Syria is in the prime national interest of the Lebanese," Lantos said. "My hold is a friendly hold. It is to persuade the Lebanese government that it is the time to do what it should have done five years ago."

Lantos also said he planned to propose legislation to get American aid for Israel as well.


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