BEIRUT: U.S. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa held meetings with top Lebanese officials Monday and Tuesday, in a brief visit to discuss U.S. support for the Lebanese state and Army, a U.S. embassy statement said.
Along with the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale, Issa met with former President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Following his meeting with Prime Minister Salam, Congressman Issa highlighted that the United States was “dedicated to ensuring that the Lebanese Armed Forces has all the tools it needs in order to preserve the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon.”
He affirmed continued U.S. support for Lebanon’s security institutions, and coordination with regional allies to meet the training and equipment needs of Lebanon’s security services.
The National News Agency had reported Tuesday that Issa also met with March 14 officials at the group’s headquarters in Beirut's Ashrafieh neighborhood.
NNA said the talks focused on political and security developments in Lebanon and the region. In addition to Issa and Ambassador Hale, the agency stated that March 14’s General Secretariat Fares Soueid, MP Marwan Hamade and MP Nadim Gemayel attended the meetings.
Issa chairs the powerful U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government. The congressman, who is of Lebanese descent, has been active in Middle Eastern affairs and arrived in Lebanon after a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo Sunday.
Issa’s visit came after the Lebanese Army had recently asked the United States for military aid that includes new fixed-wing airplanes to use as close air support while battling extremist militants encamped in the mountains outside Arsal, according to an official briefed on the request.
The source told The Daily star that the aid request also included replenishing the Army’s ammunition, a lot of which was expended in the five-day clashes earlier this month with fighters claiming allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and the Nusra Front. It also asked for help in upgrading the existing fleet of planes.
The money for the aircraft, which would be the most expensive purchase by the Army in the post-Arsal modernization effort, would likely come from the $1 billion Saudi grant entrusted to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the official said.
The ammunition was likely to arrive in the coming weeks but the airplane deal would take longer to materialize, he added.