Hezbollah: US warship near Lebanon shows US failure in Middle East

(dpa) - The Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement said Friday that the United States' move to send a warship toward waters off the Lebanese coast, was an indication of the failure of US policies in the Middle East.

"Sending a warship and threatening military force is a proof that the American administration has failed in imposing its policies and hegemony on our region," Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah said.

Late Thursday, White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe confirmed that the US has sent a warship to the area in what he described as "a show of support for regional stability."

"The president is concerned about the situation in Lebanon and would like to see it resolved," he added.

The USS Cole, a destroyer armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, was dispatched to the area from Malta amid the political crisis in Lebanon that Washington has blamed on Syrian interference.

"The Americans are trying to support their allies in Lebanon (anti-Syrian ruling Majority) with its warships ... such a move has failed in the past," Fadlallah said, referring to the deployment of US Marines and the warship New Jersey to Lebanon in 1982.

The US was forced to withdraw its troops later that year after 241 Marines were killed when a suicide bomber attacked their base near Beirut's international airport.

Lebanon has been locked in deep political division between the Western-backed ruling majority and the opposition, led by Hezbollah and supported by Syria and Iran.

The crisis has prevented political parties from electing a new president to replace pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud whose term ended on November 23.

The West and some Arab countries blame Syria and its allies in Lebanon for the deadlock.

Lebanese newspapers loyal to the Hezbollah-led opposition on Friday highlighted the US move. "America is repeating its 1982 adventure," the headline in Al-Akhbar charged.

As-Safir ran the headline: "The US is sending its warship to the Lebanese waters to terrorize the resistance (Hezbollah), Syria and the Arab summit (scheduled in Damascus at the end of March)."

This week saw the 15th delayed attempt at a parliamentary vote on the Lebanese presidency, frustrating US efforts to promote a stable democracy in Lebanon and heightening tensions with Syria. The next scheduled attempt by Parliament to vote is scheduled for March 11.

Syria has been implicated in the assassinations of several top Lebanese figures opposed to Damascus' influence in Lebanon. The US this month widened existing sanctions against Syria.

Syria withdrew its forces three years ago under intense international pressure following the assassination of Lebanese former prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, ending a 29-year occupation of Lebanon.

The United States accuses Syria and Iran of financing and arming the Hezbollah militia, which Washington designates as a terrorist organization.

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