White House: Trump to host Lebanese PM Saad Hariri

Saad al-Hariri arrives with Army Commander General Joseph Aoun at UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura on April 21, 2017.

:: US President Donald Trump will meet Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Washington next week for talks on issues including refugees and combatting terrorism, the White House announced Friday.

Analysts also anticipate US aid will be high on the agenda of the July 25 talks at the White House, which has made clear its intent to slash its aid budget for Lebanon, on grounds that national forces there have not adequately applied US military support towards reining in Hezbollah.

“The two leaders will discuss issues of mutual concern, including the fight against terrorism, the economy, and refugees,” the White House said in a statement. “This meeting will serve as an important opportunity to strengthen the bilateral relationship,” the statement said, adding that the talks “will encourage other international and regional partners to support Lebanon as it faces a wide range of challenges.”

Hezbollah weapons

The announcement comes days after US Ambassador Nikki Haley accused the Lebanon-based Hezbollah of amassing weapons and urged the international community to dial up pressure on the powerful paramilitary organization to disarm.

There has been speculation about the possibility of a new war between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel, more than a decade after their last direct confrontation.

On Thursday members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced legislation aimed at bolstering sanctions targeting Hezbollah, dubbing the group a threat to Israel’s security and criticizing its role as an active ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

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