US senators urge Biden to voice need for Lebanon president not loyal to Hezbollah
Senators Bob Menendez and Jim Risch said they were “discouraged” by the ongoing political deadlock, which they said was engineered by Hezbollah and its allies, like Speaker Nabih Berri.
The leading senators of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday urged the Biden administration to support presidential candidates in Lebanon that will be accountable to the Lebanese people amid reports that France has backed a pro-Hezbollah contender.
Lebanon has been without a president since October 2022, following the end of Michel Aoun’s term. Meanwhile, France has taken the lead in trying to mediate a solution to the presidential vacuum and the economic and financial crises in the country.
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Sleiman Frangieh, a former minister and MP, backed by Hezbollah and close to the Assad regime, was reportedly endorsed by France in private meetings with Lebanese officials.
France last week denied that it had endorsed any specific candidate. Local media reports, including a pro-Hezbollah newspaper, published detailed conversations between French officials and Lebanese lawmakers that suggested Paris was backing Frangieh.
But Senators Bob Menendez and Jim Risch said they were “discouraged” by the ongoing political deadlock, which they said was engineered by Hezbollah and its allies, like Speaker Nabih Berri.
The Biden Admin should work closely with our allies & partners to support a legitimate democratic process in #Lebanon. The Lebanese people deserve leaders that will be transparent & accountable. https://t.co/3DbvPTyjWA— Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member (@SenateForeign) April 25, 2023
In a letter to President Joe Biden, the senators said Hezbollah and its allies were trying to wear down the opposition to its preferred candidate, Frangieh.
“We strongly urge your administration to clearly reinforce the urgent need for the formation of a Lebanese government that is committed to governing transparently and addressing the desperate needs of the Lebanese people, rather than enriching cronies or enabling bad actors like Hezbollah to further derail Lebanese democracy,” the letter to Biden read. “Procedural games at the expense of meaningful reforms and good governance only serve to undermine Lebanese and regional stability.”
The consequences of Lebanon’s frozen presidential election process continue to drive the country closer to economic collapse, undermining US national security interests, Menendez and Risch said.
“We, therefore, urge you to work closely with our allies and partners in the region to support a legitimate democratic process and presidential candidates that, unlike previous presidents, will demonstrate the ability to serve and be accountable to the people of Lebanon.”
The Biden administration recently sanctioned Lebanese figures close to Hezbollah and accused them of corruption, something the two senators welcomed.
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