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US freezes weapon shipments to Lebanon: report

After Hezbollah became key player in Lebanese govt

Published:

The United States has quietly frozen weapon shipments to Lebanon's armed forces following the collapse of the country's pro-Western government, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The arms freeze was recently approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, but the decision has not been publicly announced because of concerns the disclosure could interfere with delicate internal negotiations in Lebanon, the paper said, according to AFP.

The newspaper said the suspension was part of a broader review of U.S. security assistance to Lebanon after the armed group Hezbollah has emerged as a key player in the government.

Washington is above all concerned whether the Lebanese army will be able to control Hezbollah, which has backed billionaire businessman Najib Mikati as prime minister and was appointed on Jan. 25 to form a new government.

The Shiite party, which is supported by Iran and Syria, toppled the Western-backed government of Saad al-Hariri in January after he refused to cut ties with a U.N. tribunal investigating his father's 2005 murder.

Defense officials said the United States was continuing to provide training and nonlethal assistance to the Lebanese military, describing the ties that are active as "robust," the Journal noted.

Washington has given Lebanon more than $700 million in aid to help train and equip the army since a war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.