Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hillary Clinton calls for "open and free" Lebanese elections

Sunday morning, April 26th, Secretary Hillary Clinton made a surprise visit to Lebanon. During her visit, she made it very clear that the Lebanese elections in June should be away from violence, fear and foreign influence.

In a press release distributed to reporters during her flight to Beirut Sunday, Clinton said "the upcoming elections in June should be away from violence and fear," and the Lebanese people should be able "to choose their representatives through transparent elections away from foreign influence."

She added that the U.S. will "keep supporting moderate voices in Lebanon, as well as the state institutions and the legal armed forces, even after the elections."

The Lebanese elections are scheduled to be held on June 7.

This surprise visit came days after she said a testimony to the U.S. House appropriations committee that recent arrests in Egypt of an alleged Hezbollah cell serves as a wake up for the Egyptian authorities to be aware of "increasing alliance between Hezbollah and Hamas and their connection to organization inside Egypt seeking to destabilize the government."

Hezbollah admitted that one of the detainees in Egypt is a member of its party, who was helping the Palestinians in smuggling food and weapons from Egypt to Gaza.

Clinton vowed on Friday that the U.S. interest should be in "supporting the Lebanese government, in which Hezbollah is a member,in order to prevent extremist from making more infiltration."

The Lebanese Shiite armed group Hezbollah is indeed on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

During her time in Lebanon, she met Lebanese President Michel Suleiman at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, where she held a news conference as well.

Also during her time, she placed a wreath at the grave of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri who was assassinated in 2005.

She shook hands and posed for a photo with Lebanon's majority leader Saad al-Hariri during her visit also.

After the ceremony, she wrote a note on a memorial book during her visit at the grave of assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in down town Beirut.

Read the full text of her remarks with President Michel Suieiman in Beirut here or watch below:

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