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U.S. to continue military aid to Lebanon

  • Story Highlights
  • Acting commander of U.S. Central Command in Lebanon to discuss security crisis
  • At least 62 died last week after battles between govt. forces, anti-govt. militants
  • Discussions centered on continued U.S. military assistance to Lebanese army
  • The violence is the worst to hit Lebanon since the end of its civil war in 1991
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From Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the acting commander of U.S. Central Command, spent Wednesday in Beirut, Lebanon, to discuss the security crisis with officials there and assure them that U.S. military aid will continue, a U.S. military official said.

The Lebanese army has been out in force in Beirut following battles between pro- and anti-government forces

He met Defense Minister Elias Murr and Lt. Gen. Michel Suleiman, the commander of the Lebanese armed forces in the wake of the Lebanese government losing control of part of its capital to the militant group Hezbollah.

The trip had not previously been scheduled. It is not clear when it was added to the agenda of the top U.S. military commander for the region.

Discussions centered on continued U.S. military assistance to the Lebanese armed forces in light of the ongoing crisis.

"The U.S. government will continue to support the legitimate institutions of the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people as they seek to preserve their independence and security," the military official said.

For the last several years, the Defense Department has supplied Lebanese armed forces with ammunition, armored vehicles and weapons.

The Lebanese army said Tuesday that it will use force if necessary against armed groups, acting after at least 62 people were killed as anti-government Hezbollah militants battled supporters of Lebanon's pro-Western government while the military largely stayed on the sidelines, declining to intervene.

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The army reversed its stance Tuesday, saying it would take steps up to and including the use of force in response to "security activity and military presence," an apparent reference to public activity by armed groups.

The violence is the worst to hit Lebanon since the end of its civil war in 1991. It started in Beirut, but quickly spread to nearby mountain villages in the Mount Lebanon area and to Tripoli.

Pro- and anti-government political parties in Tripoli announced a cease-fire Monday night that seemed to be holding -- at least in the hours immediately after the announcement.

Meanwhile, several Western and Middle East nations have lined up to support an Arab League effort to intervene in the political crisis. An Arab League delegation is scheduled to arrive in Lebanon this week in hope of negotiating an agreement between the Lebanese government and the Shiite Hezbollah movement.

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