Obama calls Lebanese president over Hezbollah’s role in Syria

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U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday expressed concern about the role of Hezbollah in Syria, in a telephone call with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, AFP reported the White House as saying.

The call, which also dwelt on the danger of violence spilling over into Lebanon, took place after the Syrian government’s assault on the rebel stronghold of Qusayr, which involved forces from Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell condemned both the Syrian government’s assault on Qusayr and Hezbollah’s involvement in the attack.

“The United States strongly condemns the Assad regime’s intense air and artillery strikes this weekend on the Syrian town of Qusayr along the Lebanese border,” said.

“The Assad regime deliberately provokes sectarian tensions through its assaults,” he said.

The battle began on Sunday, when Syrian government troops backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters stormed the western town, casting a shadow over U.S.-Russian efforts to organize a peace conference.

The town is considered strategically important because it sits between Damascus and the coast and is near the Lebanese border.

“We also condemn Hezbollah’s direct intervention and assault on Qusayr where its fighters are playing a significant role in the regime’s offensive,” Ventrell said.

“Hezbollah’s occupation of villages along the Lebanese-Syrian border and its support for the regime and pro-Assad militias exacerbate and inflame regional sectarian tensions and perpetuate the regime’s campaign of terror,” he added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting had left at least 56 rebels dead, six of them on Monday, and four civilians including one woman.

Quoting “reliable sources,” the opposition-aligned watchdog said that “28 members of Hezbollah’s elite forces were killed and more than 70 others wounded in clashes in Qusayr on Sunday.”

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