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US supports France initiative for Lebanon, disagrees on Hezbollah: Official

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The US supports the recent French initiative in Lebanon, but Washington disagrees with Paris over their leniency with Iran-backed Hezbollah, a US official said Wednesday.

Lebanese officials designated a new prime minister last month after the resignation of Hassan Diab’s government, which was made up of Hezbollah and its allies.

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During his second trip to Beirut after the Aug. 4 explosions, French President Emmanuel Macron threatened Lebanese politicians with sanctions before they vowed to form a new government within two weeks. One week has passed since Macron’s visit.

Yet, during his trip, Macron said Hezbollah was part of the country’s political makeup and that he could not take a stance against their political wing.

The group is designated as a terrorist organization by much of the international community, including the US, Germany, UK and Gulf states.

US Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker said Wednesday that Washington disagreed with the French approach to Hezbollah.

“If you can get a Lebanese government that will make progress, that necessarily will hurt Hezbollah,” Schenker said during a webinar with Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.

Admitting that there was a “small difference” on Hezbollah and how both states see the organization, Schenker said it was not a legitimate political party. “You have to choose between bullets and ballots,” Schenker said, adding that no political party has a militia.

“This is not a level playing field. Hezbollah is the problem,” the US diplomat said, adding that the US was encouraging France to change its views on the matter.

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