US signals alarm over Syrian conflict destabilizing Lebanon
The United States warned Friday that Lebanon's stability was at risk from the Syrian conflict that has spawned clashes in Lebanon, and condemned the Lebanese militia Hezbollah for sending fighters into Syria, dpa reported.
The mounting deaths in clashes in Lebanon's port city of Tripoli were symptoms of the broader threat to the country from the Syria conflict, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
He noted the death toll in the Tripoli clashes had risen to at least 23 in fighting between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The deaths "constitute a stark reminder that the conflict in Syria poses an increasingly dangerous threat to Lebanon's stability and security," Ventrell said.
The clashes, which broke out Sunday, saw the use of mortar shells. Schools and most businesses were closed all week.
"Hezbollah leaders' decision to escalate the group's role in the fighting in Syria violates and undermines Lebanon's dissociation policy and risks dragging Lebanon into a foreign conflict, to the detriment of the interests of the Lebanese people," Ventrell said.
Al-Assad belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam, and fighters from Lebanon's Shiite militia Hezbollah are backing Syrian government forces inside Syria.
Rebels fighting to oust al-Assad are mainly Sunni Muslims.
Ventrell said the US "fully supports Lebanon's security, stability and sovereignty" and backed Beirut's government forces in their attempt to stop the fighting in Tripoli.