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Biden: assistance to Lebanon depends on government

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said continued U.S. military assistance to Lebanon was contingent upon the makeup of its government.

"The election of leaders committed to the rule of law and economic reform opens the door to lasting growth and prosperity, as it will here in Lebanon," Biden said Friday after meeting in Beirut on Friday with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman. "I know, for the United States at least, we will evaluate the shape of our assistance programs based on the composition of the new government and the policies it advocates."

The country goes to parliamentary elections in two weeks. The United States has made no secret of its backing for pro-Western groups against the camp that includes the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah. In its announcement Thursday, it said Biden’s visit would "reinforce the United States’ support for an independent and sovereign Lebanon."

Biden delivered military equipment during his visit, including 60 battle tanks, air support aircraft armed with Hellfire-guided missiles, M198 howitzers, and Raven unmanned aerial vehicles. He made it clear the equipment was aimed at helping the Lebanese military to face down radical forces.

He also met with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri as well as Elias Murr, Lebanon’s defense minister.

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