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US calls for 'fair' Lebanon poll

By Kim Ghattas
BBC News, Lebanon

Hillary Clinton: 'We will continue to support the voices of moderation in Lebanon'

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made a brief, unannounced visit to Beirut where she held talks with the president and foreign minister.

Mrs Clinton called for the upcoming general election on 7 June to be fair and free of outside interference.

She also laid a wreath on the tomb of former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.

His killing in 2005 was blamed on Syria and triggered massive demonstrations that led to an end of decades of Syrian control over Lebanon.

It was a very short trip, her first trip ever to Lebanon, with a very powerful message.

Mrs Clinton said Washington supported Lebanon's sovereignty and would never make a deal with Syria that would sell out Lebanon and the Lebanese people.

Resurgent Hezbollah

The Obama administration has started to engage with Damascus after several years of tense ties between Syria and the US.

A senior American official told the BBC that Washington was keen to assure the Lebanese that those discussions would not be at their expense.

Syria is Lebanon's former power broker, but its allies in Beirut, including the militant group Hezbollah, are expected to regain more power in the upcoming polls.

It is a source of worry for Washington, which has made support for Lebanon's army a pillar of the cooperation between the two countries, since a pro-Western government came to power in 2005.

The US official said Washington would have to re-evaluate its military assistance to Lebanon, depending on the makeup of the next cabinet.

Mrs Clinton would not speculate about the outcome of the elections, but said Washington supported the forces of moderation.

The US secretary of state was accompanied by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, a former ambassador to Beirut.



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