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September 16, 2019

US warship docks in Lebanon


September 16, 2019

BEIRUT: The United States navy destroyer USS Ramage docked briefly in Lebanon, the US embassy in Beirut said on Sunday, amid heightened regional tensions.

The Arleigh-Burke-class vessel, capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, stopped on Saturday for a “one-day goodwill visit on the sidelines of its participation in ongoing efforts to ensure freedom of navigation and free-flow commerce in the eastern Mediterranean”, a statement from the US embassy said.

US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard and Vice Admiral James Malloy hosted “an on-board reception for US and Lebanese officials”, it added.

During the reception, the vice admiral and ambassador underscored “the ongoing commitment of the United States to be a strong and enduring partner for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), with the goals of enhancing military-to-military cooperation and promoting security and stability in the region”, according to the statement.

“This remarkable US ship, docked in this remarkable Lebanese city speaks volumes about the partnership between the US and Lebanese militaries,” Richard said. The US is currently engaged in a stand-off with Iran and its Lebanese ally, the movement Hizbullah, which has been slapped with US sanctions and classified as a “terrorist” organisation by Washington.

Hizbullah is a key player in Lebanese politics, represented both in parliament and the cabinet.

The movement is militarily involved in the war in neighbouring Syria, having sent fighters to the aid of the Iran-allied regime. In July, the US imposed sanctions on three senior Hizbullah officials in Lebanon, including two lawmakers, in the first such move against members of parliament.

At the end of August, powerful US financial sanctions were imposed on the Jammal Trust Bank in Lebanon, which was accused of acting as a key financial institution for Hizbullah, an arch-foe of US ally Israel. The ship’s docking comes as tensions spike between Hizbullah and Israel, including an exchange of cross-border fire on September 1.

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