U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called for the formation in Lebanon of a government that would carry out “significant reforms” and “real changes.”
“As for Lebanon, we’re certainly in close conversations with the French, we share the same objective. The objective is the same: business as usual in Lebanon just is unacceptable. I think (French) President (Emmanuel) Macron said the same thing,” said Pompeo at a press conference when asked about the French drive in Lebanon.
“This has to be a government that conducts significant reforms, real changes, what the people of Lebanon are demanding,” he added.
“The United States is gonna use its diplomatic presence and its diplomatic capabilities to make sure that we get that outcome,” Pompeo went on to say.
As for Hizbullah, the top U.S. diplomat described the Iran-backed group’s arsenal of arms as a “risk” for Lebanon and the region.
“I think the French share that, I think the whole world, frankly, sees the risk, the risk stares you in the face — missile systems, precision-guided missiles that Hizbullah holds in the south,” he said.
“We all remember the history of Lebanon: everybody disarms but Hizbullah. This is the challenge that is presented, so those people who are either part of that or are playing footsie with Hizbullah should know that that’s not productive,” Pompeo added.
He also stressed that “it’s not what the people of Lebanon want and it’s not what the regional security situation demands.”
In an apparent snub to Lebanon’s ruling class, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker meanwhile said Wednesday that he would not meet with Lebanese politicians during a visit to Beirut later in the day, but would hold talks with civil society activists.
In an interview with the pan-Arab Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Schenker said the new Lebanese government must believe in reforms and implement them.
“There is a need for a government that cares about its people and their demands, a responsible and transparent government that carries out economic and political reforms,” he said.
“It will no longer be business as usual,” he added.