US can keep `conditional` aid: Lebanon minister

US halts aid to Lebanon`s Army in wake of a deadly border clash with Israel.

Last Updated: Aug 12, 2010, 11:02 AM IST

Beirut: Lebanon`s defence minister on Wednesday lashed out at a US’ decision to halt aid to his country`s Army in the wake of a deadly border clash with Israel, protesting that aid was being made conditional.

"Whoever sets as a condition that the aid should not be used to protect Lebanon`s land, people and borders from the (Israeli) enemy can keep their money," Defence Minister Elias Murr told a news conference.

"We welcome any unconditional offer of aid to the Lebanese Army, and if anyone announces they have decided to halt that aid, they are free to make that choice," he said.

Murr`s bitter comments were in reaction to a US decision to freeze military aid to Lebanon following last week`s clash between Israeli and Lebanese troops that left four dead.

An advisor to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman has also criticised the US decision but said that support for the Army was central to upholding Lebanon`s sovereignty.

"It is time the Lebanese Army be adequately armed, and we are counting on the friends of Lebanon to help the army," Nazem Khoury said.

US Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Monday he had placed on hold USD 100 million in aid to Lebanon`s military.

Berman said he could not be sure the Lebanese armed forces were not working with the Shi’ite militant movement Hezbollah, which Washington lists as a terrorist organisation.

And in a letter released yesterday, another top US lawmaker asked the Pentagon for assurances that military aid from Washington was not indirectly helping Hezbollah.

PTI