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Officials: Resuming aid to Lebanese military in U.S. interest

By Elise Labott, CNN Senior State Department Producer
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Military aid to Lebanon was suspended last month
  • Concerns over Hezbollah's influence on the military led to the suspension
  • The State Department says a review has been completed

(CNN) -- The Obama administration has decided that it should reinstate a multimillion dollar aid package to the Lebanese military, senior officials told CNN on Thursday.

The administration has concluded that resuming $100 million in aid to the Lebanese military, which was suspended by several members of Congress last month after an incident involving the Lebanese army and Israel, is in the interest of U.S. national security and Mideast stability, the officials said.

The State Department acknowledged Thursday that a review requested by Congress had been completed.

"We have completed our review of assistance to Lebanon and we are in the process of consultations with members of Congress regarding our findings," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "We'll have more to say with that when the consultations are done."

Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement last month that he suspended aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces on August 2 because he was concerned about the influence the militant group Hezbollah may have in the army and out of increased concern American-supplied weapons could threaten Israel.

He said those concerns were reinforced a day later when Lebanese soldiers allegedly shot and killed an Israeli soldier along the Israel-Lebanon border.

The August 3 fighting, in which four were killed, including two Lebanese soldiers and an Israeli officer, marked the most serious fighting between Israel and Lebanon since the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Although Hezbollah didn't take part in the fighting, there has been speculation the group may have encouraged it.

The Bush and Obama administrations have pushed for substantial military packages for Lebanon, arguing a strong army was crucial to help the government extend its authority over the country, which has been challenged by Hezbollah.