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Tehran’s Beirut Allies Launch Criticism Campaign Ahead of Pompeo’s Visit

Tehran’s Beirut Allies Launch Criticism Campaign Ahead of Pompeo’s Visit

Friday, 15 March, 2019 - 08:45
FILE PHOTO - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference at Lazienki Palace in Warsaw, Poland February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Beirut - Khalil Fleihan
Iran’s allies in Lebanon have launched an attack on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, more than a week before his expected visit to Beirut.

Several parties hope to thwart Pompeo’s visit and send a message to their Lebanese rivals planning to meet with him that they should disregard his statements.

Pompeo is expected in Lebanon on March 22 as part of a regional tour that includes stops in Kuwait and Israel.

The parties launching the anti-US campaign have spread information via three local television channels that Pompeo would only discuss with Lebanese officials the maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel in the Block 9 oil field.

According to the TV reports, the US official would inform Beirut about Washington’s decision to freeze the so-called “Hoff Line” because Lebanon and Israel have been unable to reach any agreement on the matter, allowing Tel Aviv to take over large quantities of gas from the disputed block.

Lebanon has an unresolved maritime border dispute with Israel over a triangular area of sea of around 860 square kilometers that extends along the edge of three of its total 10 blocks.

The “Hoff Line” calls for Lebanon to acquire 550 square kilometers of the disputed triangular area, and consider the rest as part of Israeli territorial waters.

Despite claiming that Pompeo has one thing in mind when visiting Beirut, the parties behind the rumors shied away from mentioning that the US official aims to discuss with Lebanese officials the need to respect sanctions imposed on Iran.

Pompeo would also briefly discuss with Lebanese officials US plans to establish a “strategic alliance in the Middle East against threats facing the region.”

Sources said Pompeo would explain in his Beirut meetings the importance of such an alliance, while acknowledging that Lebanon would not join it.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield was informed, during his visit to Beirut earlier this month, that Lebanon is committed to the dissociation policy and that it rejects to be part of any axis.

Pompeo is also expected to discuss the crisis in Syria.

Sources said the US official believes that the crisis of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon cannot be resolved in the absence of a political solution in Damascus.

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