Hillary Clinton in Beirut ahead of key vote
A strong showing by Hezbollah might also see its sponsors Iran and Syria gaining influence in the region and harming Arab-Israeli peace efforts. The U.S. and Israel regard Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, although it plays a role in Lebanon’s current government.
“The people of Lebanon must be able to choose their own representatives in open and fair elections without the spectre of violence or intimidation and free of outside interference,” Clinton said in a brief statement given to reporters aboard her plane. “We join the international community in supporting the Lebanese government’s efforts to achieve that goal.”
“Beyond the elections we will continue to support the voices of moderation in Lebanon and the responsible institutions of the Lebanese state they are working hard to build. Our ongoing support for the Lebanese armed forces remains a pillar of our bilateral co-operation,” she said.
Prior to Clinton’s visit, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon had already expressed concern about the election, and Hezbollah’s opponents warn the consequence may be the West isolating the country and Washington reducing millions in aid.
The Obama administration is urging free and fair elections but is treading carefully. The Bush administration encouraged the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and then saw the radical Hamas movement win handily and badly damage efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Reflecting that concern, Clinton was expected to stay only briefly in Beirut and meet with just one senior official, President Michel Suleiman. She was not expected to see other politicians who will be candidates in the election, like the pro-Western Prime Minister Fuad Saniora.