U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has backed Lebanon's independence and stability while voicing concern about tension there in a conversation with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.
In a telephone call to Mr. Suleiman Wednesday, the top U.S. diplomat confirmed the importance to Washington of building Lebanon's state institutions and spoke about what she called the "troubling rise of tensions in Lebanon."
She also stressed that the United States "fully endorses" United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's recent remarks that the U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri "must go forward without interference."
The U.N. chief strongly defended the tribunal's work earlier this month, urging "all Lebanese and regional parties" not to prejudge the outcome, nor to interfere.
Diplomats said the U.N. chief appeared to be directing his comments at Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, which has denounced the U.N. inquiry, and at neighboring Syria, which has been increasingly critical of it.
Syria has denied widely held suspicions it was involved in the Beirut truck bombing that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others. And Hezbollah is reported to fear the probe may indict some of its members.
Mr. Hariri was the father of Lebanon's current prime minister, Saad al-Hariri.
Hezbollah also criticized Mr. Ban Wednesday for saying Lebanon has been hit by a "worrying pattern" of armed incidents. Mr. Ban's comments appeared in a report Monday on the implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution 1559 from 2004 that called for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias in Lebanon and the withdrawal of any remaining foreign forces.
Hezbollah said the U.N. report shows meddling in Lebanon's affairs and also demonstrates "political interference" in the work of the special tribunal for Lebanon.
The U.N. report was issued a few days after Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Lebanon and met with government officials and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.