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Page last updated at 00:33 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 01:33 UK

US vice-president in Beirut 'support' visit

US Vice-President Joe Biden. Photo: 21 May 2009
Mr Biden will announce more military aid to Lebanon, the US says

US Vice-President Joe Biden is to visit Beirut to express Washington's support for an "independent and sovereign Lebanon", the White House has said.

It said Mr Biden would hold talks with top officials in the Lebanese capital.

He would also announce fresh US military assistance to the Lebanese armed forces.

The visit comes two weeks before elections that will pit a pro-Western government against a Syria-backed alliance that includes Hezbollah.

Mr Biden flies to Lebanon from Kosovo, where he said the territory's independence was "absolutely irreversible".

His Balkan tour also included visits to Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia.

Clinton's plea

"While in Beirut, the vice-president will meet President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri," the White House said in a statement.

Map

It said Mr Biden would also join Lebanese Defence Minister Elias Murr for an announcement on US aid to the Lebanese army.

Washington has increased military aid to Lebanon to strengthen the country's armed forces as a counterweight to militant group Hezbollah, which fought a war against Israel in 2006.

Last month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Beirut, where she called for the 7 June general election to be fair and free of outside interference.

Pro-Syrian allies in Lebanon are expected to regain more power in the upcoming polls, correspondents say.

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



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