Published: Thu, December 05, 2019

US releases $100 million in Lebanon aid

US releases $100 million in Lebanon aid

Donald Trump's administration has lifted a mysterious "hold" on more than $100 million in security aid for Lebanon, congressional and State Department officials said, more than a month after lawmakers learned the funds were being blocked.

The military aid was placed under a mysterious hold for months with no explanation.

A State Department official and a congressional aide, both speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the assistance has been unblocked by the White House s Office of Management and Budget.

"Holding the money weakened the Lebanese military just at the moment that they were holding the country together", Sen.

Two senior Democrats, in a recent letter to the White House, said that hold affected $105 million in aid to Lebanon including military vehicles, weapons and ammunition.

Hale had said in congressional testimony that there had been some disagreements about the efficacy of USA aid to the Lebanese armed forces, Reuters reported.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he and first lady Melania Trump depart for travel to a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in London, from the White House in Washington, U.S. December 2, 2019.

David Hale, one of the top officials in the State Department, who served as USA ambassador to Lebanon from 2013 until 2015, in testimony to House impeachment investigators signaled that the hold on the aid to Lebanon went back to late June. However, unlike Ukraine, there has been no suggestion that President Donald Trump is seeking "a favor" from Lebanon in exchange for the aid, according to officials familiar with the matter. He never gave an explanation for the hold.

Hale said this was around the time he "first started to hear that there was a problem" with the roughly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, which was frozen by the Trump administration over the summer and released on September 11.

US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale earlier said there had been some disagreements over the efficacy of the American aid to Lebanon's military. "Our assistance is crucial to help Lebanon counter Iran-backed Hezbollah and other groups threatening the region". Murphy compared the situation to Trump's hold on security assistance to Ukraine, warning that doing so could benefit USA adversaries while harming important partners.

On Monday, the senior State official said on a conference call with reporters that Lebanon's army is "an excellent partner to the United States" in fighting extremism.

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