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Pompeo Denounces Hezbollah in Lebanon, With an Israeli Audience in Mind

The speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, told Mr. Pompeo in their meeting that Lebanese leaders had concerns about the harsh American-led sanctions against Iran, which are affecting Hezbollah, according to the official National News Agency. He said that besides being in government now, Hezbollah was a legitimate resistance group, and “the Lebanese resistance is because of the continuous Israeli occupation of Lebanese territories.”

Lebanon itself claims a sliver of the Golan Heights, and the Israeli army once occupied southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah has a strong presence.

On Thursday, Mr. Aoun, the president, told reporters for Russian-owned news organizations that “the siege on Hezbollah affects all Lebanese.” Mr. Aoun said he plans to travel to Moscow. Russia and Iran are the two main allies of the Syrian government, and, along with Hezbollah, are fighting anti-Assad rebels.

Mr. Aoun hosted Mr. Pompeo at the presidential palace in the midafternoon. The State Department said Mr. Pompeo told Mr. Aoun about the “U.S. government’s strong concerns over the role of Hezbollah and Iran in Lebanon and the region and the risks this poses to Lebanon’s security, stability and prosperity.”

Alain Aoun, a member of parliament who is part of the president’s bloc, had a measured response. “We’re dealing normally with the visit, we know the situation, we know the escalation against Hezbollah,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s a fact but we‘re living with it.”

Some Lebanese had much harsher words for Mr. Pompeo. Al Akhbar News, a daily newspaper that often criticizes American and Israeli policies, ran a commentary on Friday with the headline, “The filthy Yankee and his minions.”

“Pompeo is here to incite Lebanese against each other,” it said.

On Friday, in what appeared to be another element in President Trump’s campaign to bolster Mr. Netanyahu, officials in Washington announced new sanctions against individuals and groups in Iran with links to its nuclear program. They acted even though American intelligence agencies say Iran is not trying to build a nuclear weapon.


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