U.S. says delegation's visit to Syria-Lebanon border invited by Lebanon
The U.S. embassy in Lebanon said Friday that the U.S. security delegation's Wednesday visit to Lebanese Masnaa border area near Syria was invited and coordinated by the Lebanese government, Xinhua reported.
The embassy said in a statement that the delegation of the U.S. State Department's Antiterrorism Assistance Program visited Lebanon to assess training programs administered by the U.S. in cooperation with Lebanon.
It added that the trip has been planned since March in coordination with Lebanon's Interior Ministry, Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and other institutions.
However, the statement stressed that the delegation did not inspect facilities in the Masnaa area.
The statement comes after the Lebanese Interior Ministry on Thursday denied that it authorized the visit that occurred on Wednesday. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also denied being noticed about the visit.
Several Lebanese politicians and parties, including the Shiite armed group Hezbollah, criticized the visit which came after Arabic, Western and Israeli reports said Syria transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah.
"We coordinate with the Foreign Ministry in the planning of visits by U.S. officials and of meetings with Lebanese government officials and in accordance with international diplomatic practices and norms," the statement added.
Israel has always accused Hezbollah of smuggling weapons into Lebanon through Syria.
The U.S. State Department said Lebanon would be put under " significant risk" if Syria had transferred Scud missiles to the Shiite group.