Hale Meets Top Senior Officials in Lebanon on Second Day of Visit

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale met with senior Lebanese officials on Friday, one day after arriving into Lebanon and bypassing politicians to head straight to a hard-hit neighbourhood where young volunteers are helping people after the colossal Beirut blast

Accompanied by US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea and a delegation of US diplomats, Hale first met with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker PM Hassan Diab and ex-PM Saad Hariri who invited him to lunch at the Center House.

Hale conveyed condolences to President Aoun from US President , and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for the victims of the Beirut Port explosion, stressing that the US stands by Lebanon and the Lebanese in the current ordeal, the National News Agency reported.

Hale pointed out the US President’s directives that the United States be present and ready for help, thanking President Aoun for Lebanon’s agreement to receive a team from the Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) to participate in the investigations being conducted by the Lebanese judiciary.

Hale asserted that the US will not interfere in the internal Lebanese affairs, but will cooperate with its authorities, friends and allies in the region to offer the help needed.

Stressing the need to enforce reforms in Lebanon, Hale said it “opens the door to releasing the CEDRE funds and cooperating with the IMF, because this is what Lebanon needs now.”

Hale also met with Berri, Diab and Hariri.

Arriving in Lebanon after last week’s deadly Beirut blast, Hale bypassed politicians on Thursday to head straight to a hard-hit neighbourhood where young volunteers are helping people abandoned by their state.

At the volunteer hub dubbed the “Base Camp”, there is a “focus on getting things done,” Hale told a press conference after his tour.

He contrasted the hive of activity to the “dysfunctional governance and empty promises” of Lebanon’s political leaders, who face public outrage over the explosion of a vast stock of ammonium nitrate stored for years at Beirut’s port.

In the wake of the August 4 explosion of a huge chemical store that laid waste to whole Beirut neighbourhoods, students and young professionals have ditched classes and day jobs to save lives, provide emergency support and start to rebuild.

Hale’s visit to the volunteer hub in the blast-hit Gemmayzeh district came days after French President took a tour of the same street last Thursday, as well as meeting Lebanese leaders.

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