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Difficult Task Awaits Pompeo in Beirut Due to Internal Differences

Difficult Task Awaits Pompeo in Beirut Due to Internal Differences

Thursday, 21 March, 2019 - 13:45
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pictured here on Capitol Hill in May 2017, REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Beirut- khalil Fleihan
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will begin his official visit to Beirut on Friday amid tight security measures. It will be his first visit to Lebanon since he took office, on a mission described by a US diplomat as “difficult and complex, given the wide disparities between officials divided over their view of Hezbollah.”

President Michel Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil “will inform the US visitor that they support Hezbollah and that its weapons were still needed until the liberation of the remaining Lebanese territory occupied by Israel,” according to the diplomat.

“Pompeo will try to persuade Aoun and Bassil to abandon the absolute support of the party because of its military arsenal that threatens Lebanon and regional security,” he said.

“Pompeo, who was the former director of the US intelligence, is aware that his attempt will probably not succeed; but he is obliged to inform the Lebanese president that his country is taking further measures to tighten the pressure on Iran,” he remarked.

The diplomat went on to say that the US secretary of State will emphasize that “President Donald Trump is going to pressure Iran to end its role with the armed organizations; because achieving this end will restore stability to these countries, and will reflect positively on the Middle East.”

The refugee file will be a point of contention between the US and Lebanese sides. Aoun will stress the need for the displaced Syrians to return to their homeland as Lebanon could no longer bear the resulting burdens, while Pompeo will express the US understanding of the country’s suffering, but at the same time, will reiterate Washington’s stance on the need for a political solution to guarantee the safe repatriation of refugees.

The US senior official will begin his visit by meeting with Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and then move to Ain al-Tineh to meet with Speaker Nabih Berri. He will meet with Bassil at the Bustros Palace, before holding talks with Aoun.

Pompeo’s informal meetings will include a dinner hosted by former Minister and MP Nayla Mouawad at her residence in Hazmieh.

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