After Israeli plea, US cutting $105 million in military aid to Lebanon — report
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After Israeli plea, US cutting $105 million in military aid to Lebanon — report

Reported decision by State Department comes day after Israeli officials said diplomats had asked allies to condition funds on action against Hezbollah missile program

An army armored personnel carrier removes a garbage container set on fire by anti-government protesters in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. (AP/Hussein Malla)
An army armored personnel carrier removes a garbage container set on fire by anti-government protesters in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. (AP/Hussein Malla)

The State Department has reportedly decided to withhold $105 million in military aid to Lebanon, a day after Israel said it was asking international donors to withhold funds amid political turbulence in Beirut.

The State Department informed Congress Thursday of its decision to withhold the aid, Reuters reported.

No reason was given for the move, which came as the country has been rocked by weeks of anti-government protests that have pushed prime minister Saad Hariri from office and raised questions about the political future of Lebanon.

On Wednesday, Israeli officials said they had asked allies to condition any aid to Lebanon on efforts to get rid of advanced arms stationed there.

“In discreet talks with various capitals, we made it clear that any aid meant to guarantee the stability of Lebanon needs to be conditioned on Lebanon dealing with Hezbollah’s precision-guided missiles,” a senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Anything short of that will be problematic, in our eyes.”

Lebanese protesters set the Israeli flag ablaze as riot police officers remove anti-government protesters blocking the road at the ring-bridge in the Lebanese capital Beirut on October 31, 2019 (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

There was no immediate confirmation of the Reuters report.

The Trump administration has levied a series of sanctions on Hezbollah, which maintains its own militia. At the same time, it had sought approval for military aid to Beirut as a means of strengthening the army there as a bulwark against the Iran-backed group and regional instability.

In this October 9, 2016 photo, Hezbollah fighters stand atop a car mounted with a mock rocket, as they parade during a rally to mark the seventh day of Ashoura, in the southern village of Seksakiyeh, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

One US official cited by Reuters said the US decision could lead to Russia stepping in and expanding its regional influence.

Israel has accused the Lebanese military of doing nothing to stop Hezbollah from arming itself with precision guided missiles, a program which Jerusalem has vowed to thwart.

In September, Treasury Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea visited Lebanon and encouraged it “to take the necessary steps to maintain distance from Hezbollah and other malign actors attempting to destabilize Lebanon and its institutions,” according to a US Embassy statement.

The AP contributed to this report.

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