Toner: US not concerned about Zarif’s visit to Lebanon

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The US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said the visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Lebanon and his meeting with President Michel Aoun was nothing of concern for America.

During his press briefing on Monday, he said, “We’re not going to necessarily look at this one visit in isolation as some kind of indication of how the new president and new government and new prime minister are going to conduct their government. Again, we’re looking to them to form a new government. There is a great need, as we’ve all seen. There’s – it’s a challenging political environment in Lebanon. We want to see stability returned there, basic services be guaranteed.”

He stressed, “So I don’t want to take this one visit in isolation and use it to make some sort of decision about where we see this government headed.”

He also provided a “No” answer to a question whether “So you’re – but you’re not concerned by it? Is that – that’s the bottom line?”

Commenting on the question whether “… a Lebanese Government that tilts towards Iran, … you don’t see as a problem?”, he said “No, I mean, we’re aware, obviously – we’ve acknowledged the fact that Hizballah supported this government or Aoun. But we said we’re not going to make any decisions other than what we see him and his new government conducting themselves.”

A reporter asked him, “So broadly speaking, you’re not concerned that Iran might have more influence in Lebanon at the expense of probably your good ally, Saudi Arabia, in Lebanon. Do you?”

Toner answered, “Again, I think I’d make the distinction between being aware – and that’s what I just was trying to say – of that element, but not overly concerned. And again, I think what we’re potentially pleased to see is some kind of stable governance returned to Lebanon again, a place that has struggled, let’s be honest, in the last year or so with providing basic services, basic security. So as much as they can restore that stability to Lebanon, we’d be happy.”

The questions posed to Toner referred to Zarif’s visit to Lebanon as the first high-ranking foreign official to visit the country after the election of Michel Aoun as president after a long period of political standoff.

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