US congress suspend military aid to Lebanon

Congressman Howard Berman

Congressman Howard Berman

A United States congressional committee has temporarily blocked military aid to Lebanon out of fears Hizbollah militants could use it to attack Israel.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee suspended a military package worth more than £60 million (£100 million) which was due to go to the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Howard Berman, the Californian congressman who chairs the committee, announced that the funding would be suspended on August 2 and called on President Obama to look into Hizbollah’s influence on the Lebanese army.

The following day, Lebanese soldiers fired on Israeli troops carrying out routine maintenance work near the border, leading to four deaths.

Although Hizbollah was not thought to be behind the attack Mr Berman has now said: "Until we know more about this incident and the nature of Hezbollah influence on the LAF and can assure that the LAF is a responsible actor, I cannot in good conscience allow the United States to continue sending weapons to Lebanon.”

However a state department spokesman said it was in America’s interest to have “an extensive military cooperation program with Lebanon”.

It comes as Hizbollah’s leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah claimed to have evidence implicating Israel in the 2005 murder of the then Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.

An Israeli official said: “"The international community, the Arab world, and most importantly, the people of Lebanon all know that these accusations are simply ridiculous.”

A Netherlands-based tribunal is investigating Hariri's assassination and Hizbollah militants are widely expected to be indicted in the case.

Last updated: 10:55am, August 10 2010