BEIRUT: U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale described Wednesday a recent meeting between President Barack Obama and his Lebanese counterpart President Michel Sleiman as “excellent,” a statement from the American Embassy said.
“It was an excellent meeting and gave President Obama an opportunity to express his appreciation for President Sleiman’s extraordinary leadership at a very challenging time both here in Lebanon and the region,” Hale said following a meeting with caretaker Information Minister Walid Daouq.
Hale also stressed the need for Lebanon to commit to the policy of disassociation from events in Syria and criticized Hezbollah’s involvement in Lebanon’s neighbor.
“We know that the conflict in Syria is affecting every aspect of life in Lebanon, and therefore we commend Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from the Syrian conflict,” Hale said.
“Unfortunately, Hezbollah is deeply involved in a conflict that has displaced millions of people and threatens to destabilize the region,” he added.
“This is felt strongly here in Lebanon. For that reason, yesterday President Obama announced additional assistance to Lebanon for both the humanitarian and security challenges that Lebanon faces.”
During a meeting Tuesday with Sleiman on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Obama pledged $8.7 million in additional aid to the Lebanese Army to help maintain Lebanon’s stability.
The meeting with Sleiman came after Obama announced $339 million in additional humanitarian aid in response to the crisis in Syria, including $74 million for Lebanon to support the growing refugee population.
Hale said that among issues discussed with Daouq was freedom of the press in Lebanon.
“I think we both agree that the work of a free press is crucial to a healthy democracy and society and I was very pleased to hear from the Minister his own personal, strong commitment to press freedoms,” Hale said.