U.S.: Relations With Lebanon Will Suffer if Hezbollah Takes Leadership

Asked if the United States would be able to continue to assist Lebanon now that Hezbollah is poised to name prime minister, State Departments says: 'That would be difficult to do'.

The United States is waiting to see how Lebanon's government shapes up but a big role for Hezbollah could complicate ties and impact ongoing aid, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Monday.

"Our view of Hezbollah is very well-known. We see it as a terrorist organization, and would have great concerns about a government within which Hezbollah plays a leading role," Crowley told a news briefing.

Lebanon tensions - Reuters - Jan. 20, 2011

Asked if the United States would be able to continue to assist Lebanon if Hezbollah, a Shi'ite militant group, takes over the government, Crowley replied, "That would be difficult for the United States to do."

"The larger the role played by Hezbollah in this government the more problematic our relationship will be," he said.

Hezbollah and its allies won support on Monday to nominate their candidate for Lebanon's prime minister, giving them the upper hand in attempts to form a government and sparking accusations of a pro-Iranian coup.

Hezbollah appears on the official U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations subject to financial and travel sanctions.

Hezbollah and its allies brought down Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri earlier this month, plunging the country into crisis in a dispute over confidential indictments by a U.N.-backed tribunal which is investigating the 2005 killing of Rafik al-Hariri, the premier's father.

The collapse of the government lays bare the stalemate between Hezbollah, supported by Syria and Iran, and the Western- and Saudi-backed Hariri.

The United State has given the Lebanese Armed Forces an estimated e650 million since 2006 to pay for such things as helicopter maintenance, weapons and ammunition, night-vision goggles and anti-tank missiles.

Hariri said last week that he would seek the nomination for the premiership despite pressure from Hezbollah and its allies. He said he would accept the result of consultations and would not join his supporters in taking to the streets.