Lebanon meets with FBI, seeks US aid for security forces

Published March 24th, 2015 - 06:16 GMT

Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk discussed Lebanon’s security problems with the director of the FBI and other American officials Monday in a bid to secure U.S. support for Lebanese security forces during a visit to Washington.

In a statement released Tuesday, Machnouk said he met with James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who praised Lebanon’s January crackdown on the Islamist block of Roumieh Prison.

The U.S. is willing to offer Lebanon "technical assistance needed by the security forces in the fight against terrorism,” Comey reportedly told Machnouk, according to the statement.

Comey’s comments followed a tour of the FBI’s training center.

Machnouk later met with Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican from California of Lebanese origin.

Machnouk spoke to Issa, and an accompanying delegation of congressmen, about the political situation in Lebanon and the Syrian refugee crisis.

He also met with a group of lobbyists of Lebanese origin who say they push for pro-Lebanese policies in Congress, according to the statement.

That meeting, which was attended by Antoine Chedid, Lebanon's ambassador to the United States, focused on the Interior Ministry’s counterterrorism efforts and plans to address the presence of Syrian refugees.

The delegation responded by vowing to coordinate with American officials over the delivery of aid and technical assistance to Lebanon’s security forces.

During an evening event, Machnouk said Lebanon’s fight against extremists should be left to official security forces, and militias.

“This is the main reason behind my visit to Washington — to provide technical assistance and training for security forces in order to strengthen them and enable them to counter terrorism in a more effective manner,” he said.

Machnouk also offered support to the idea of a joint Arab force to combat extremist movements in the Middle East, saying that a reliance on Iran to combat ISIS (Daesh) is a “recipe for sectarian strife.”

Iran’s role in fighting ISIS may even lead to a Sunni-Shiite war that could last for years, he added.

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