U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with MTV news channel Saturday that his country was prepared to use all the “peaceful tools” available, including imposing more sanctions, to curb the influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In response to a question about whether Washington was considering expanding sanctions to include “Lebanese political figures close to Hezbollah,” Pompeo said that while “I never get ahead of the president with respect to who or what entities we might designate or which tools we might use,” the U.S. was “prepared to use all peaceful tools” it has.
“And we’ll work alongside our Lebanese partners to ensure that we get the right outcomes. If that involves sanctioning particular individuals, we’re prepared to do that,” he said.
The secretary said his talks with Lebanese officials in Beirut Friday and Saturday had also focused on American businesses investing in Lebanon. Replying to a question about whether he was concerned about the negative impact of sanctions on the Lebanese economy, Pompeo said that the U.S. wanted the Lebanese economy to grow. “We think a healthy, thriving Lebanese economy is good” for peace and stability, he said.
The secretary departed Beirut Saturday evening, concluding a Middle East tour that also took him to Israel and Kuwait. His talks with Lebanese officials centered on Hezbollah, but also touched on U.S. support for the Lebanese Army and a dispute over Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.
Pompeo reiterated his stance in the interview with MTV that “allowing Hezbollah” in Lebanon “is so dangerous,” saying the group threatened the country’s diversity and democracy.
“We want our good partners in Lebanon to understand that we’re with them in this battle and that they don’t have to allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to underwrite a terrorist organization that infiltrates inside of their country,” he added.
In a news conference Friday, Pompeo lambasted Hezbollah for putting the interests of itself and its patron Iran over Lebanon and taking unilateral action on “war and peace and life and death.”
Reading a press statement standing next to Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil - an important ally of Hezbollah - Pompeo had said Lebanon and the Lebanese people “face a choice: bravely move forward as an independent and proud nation, or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate your future.”
Shortly before he spoke, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it was imposing new sanctions on 14 people and 17 entities connected to Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, a research organization the U.S. alleged played a central role in the Islamic Republic’s past nuclear weapons effort.
Pompeo had said sanctions were having their intended effect, noting that Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah had “begged” for donations from followers during a speech earlier this month, citing financial pressures.
Speaking before Pompeo, Bassil had described Hezbollah as “a Lebanese group that is not a terrorist organization, and has great popular support and elected MPs,” echoing similar statements from President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri following their meetings with the U.S. official.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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