Russia criticizes US ships off Lebanon

Russia told the U.N. Security Council on Monday that the presence of U.S. Navy warships in the Mediterranean off the coast of Lebanon was not helping resolve the political crisis in Lebanon. ( AP )

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current council president, said he raised the U.S. deployment at a closed council meeting on implementation of the U.N. cease-fire resolution that ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon in August 2006.

"We pointed out the fact that basically all Lebanese political forces expressed their concern about that, including the government of Prime Minister (Fuad) Saniora, and we have said that such acts were bringing up some unwanted historical analogies," he said.

"So we did not see it as a constructive contribution to the situation in Lebanon," Churkin said.

Saniora's Western-backed government and the Hezbollah-led opposition have been locked in a 15-month power struggle, with Hezbollah and its allies trying to force out Saniora's administration. The deadlock has prevented the country from electing a president since November, leaving the post empty in a dangerous power vacuum.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said he doesn't believe the presence of U.S. destroyers is hampering efforts by the Lebanese to resolve the political crisis.

"We've had forces in the Mediterranean, in the region for some time," he said. "Those forces are there to protect our interests and to be able to deal with any contingency that might develop."

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