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AFP
June 29, 2020

US directly interfering in Lebanon’s affairs, says President Aoun

World

AFP
June 29, 2020

BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun has censured Washington’s ‘direct’ interference in the internal affairs of Lebanon, against the backdrop of comments by US Ambassador to Beirut Dorothy Shea.

“The Americans are directly interfering in the Lebanese domestic affairs; and this is unacceptable,” Aoun said in an exclusive interview with the Beirut-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network on Sunday.

He cautioned the US envoy over making more caustic remarks against the Lebanese resistance movement Hizbullah, emphasizing that the group represents the Lebanese society and enjoys popularity among people.

Earlier in the day, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti summoned Shea over her anti-Hizbullah criticism.Al-Mayadeen reported that Hitti will meet with Dorothy Shea at 3:00 pm local time (1200 GMT) on Monday to inform her that, under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, an ambassador must not interfere in the domestic affairs of another country, and that her speech must not seek to pit Lebanese people against each other.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is an international treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between countries.On Saturday, Lebanese judge Mohamad Mazeh in the southern city of Tyre banned local and foreign media outlets in the country from interviewing the US Ambassador for a year, after Shea told Saudi-owned al-Hadath television news network that Washington has “great concerns” over Hizbullah’s role in the government.

Hizbullah’s growing popularity in the Arab and Muslim world after the resistance movement shattered the Israeli military’s myth of invincibility during the 33-day military offensive on Lebanon back in the summer of 2006 has been a matter of serious concern for the Tel Aviv regime and its Western allies.

The resistance movement’s heroic defense as well as its vehement opposition to any foreign intervention in Lebanon’s domestic affairs has turned the group into a major stakeholder in the country’s political and military domains.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s foreign ministry has summoned the US ambassador over her recent criticism of Hizbullah, a day after a judge banned local media from covering her future remarks, state media said on Sunday.

Foreign minister Nassif Hitti “has summoned US ambassador Dorothy Shea for a meeting tomorrow (Monday) at 15:00 (12:00 GMT) in light of her latest statements,” said a statement carried by the state-run National News Agency on Sunday.

During an interview with Saudi-owned news channel Al-Hadath aired on Friday, Dorothy Shea said the United States has “grave concerns about the role of Hizbullah, a designated terrorist organisation”.

“It has syphoned off billions of dollars that should have gone into government coffers so that the government can provide basic services to its people,” she said.“It has obstructed some of the economic reforms the Lebanese economy so desperately needs,” she added.

Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah on Sunday condemned the ambassador’s “hostile behaviour” saying her remarks constitute an “attack” on the country’s “sovereignty and dignity.”He called on Lebanese authorities and especially the foreign ministry to “compel the ambassador to respect international treaties that define the duties of diplomats.”

The State Department issued a fiery response to the judge’s order on Saturday, stating: “Hizbullah’s attempt to silence the Lebanese media is pathetic.”But Lebanon’s Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad dismissed the judge’s order, saying “no one has the right to ban the media from covering the news.”

Local broadcaster LBC said it would not abide by the ruling, calling it a “non-binding and unenforceable” decision that violates freedom of press.A senior judicial source told AFP that Mazeh had “overstepped his prerogatives as a judge.”

Mazeh responded to the criticism on Sunday, saying his “conscious is clear” and that he is “fully convinced“ that his decision was correct.He said, however, that he is ready to resign if he is referred for judicial review after Lebanese media reports claimed that judicial authorities were planning to look into his professional conduct.