Accessibility links

Hezbollah Criticizes US Naval Deployment Off Lebanon

The U.S. decision to deploy naval vessels off the coast of Lebanon is drawing criticism from the pro-Syrian Hezbollah group. The embattled pro-western Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has tried to distance himself from the move, as Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Beirut.

The pro-Syrian Hezbollah group condemned the U.S. decision to deploy warships off Lebanon's coast.

Hezbollah member of parliament Hussein Hajj Hassan denounced the U.S. deployment of the destroyer USS Cole and two other warships, calling the move "military meddling." He said the U.S. action was an "attempt to attach Lebanon to a joint Israeli-American scheme for the region."

Hezbollah spokesman Hussein Rahhal said the U.S. move is threatening Lebanon's security and stability.

It is an assault on Lebanese sovereignty, he says, and it comes within the framework of the American war in the region. The Lebanese people reject this intervention and this assault on Lebanese sovereignty, he says.

Prime Minister Siniora told Arab diplomats that his government did not ask the U.S. to deploy ships and that they would not enter Lebanon's territorial waters:

He said only Lebanese ships and those of the UN Interim Force, which is helping secure the naval border, are in Lebanese waters.

The government daily al Mustaqbal insisted that the presence of the USS Cole means that the U.S. has lost patience with Syria.

White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the deployment reflects U.S. concerns about the political situation in Lebanon.

Lebanon has been without a president since November, and 15 consecutive parliamentary sessions to elect a new one have been postponed because the pro-Syrian Hezbollah-led opposition has refused to show up for the vote.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa have tried to mediate. They have accused Syria of blocking the election.

Syria is scheduled to host an Arab summit in March, and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia are threatening to boycott the event if Syria does not intervene to facilitate the election.