U.S. says will speed up military help to Lebanon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States plans to speed up assistance to Lebanon’s army but has no plans as yet to increase current military aid to deal with the latest crisis, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

“I know there are a number of things in the pipeline for them and my understanding is that we will be trying to move some of those things through the pipeline in an expedited fashion,” said State Department spokesman Tom Casey, who provided no details about which items would be delivered more quickly or their value.

Casey said there were no current plans for new assistance for Lebanon’s military.

“There is no new aid, or no new aid program for the Lebanese military. What we have is an ongoing program,” Casey told reporters.

Since mid-2006, the United States has given Lebanon about $1.3 billion in assistance, of which State Department officials said about $400 million was for military aid.

“We have an ongoing military assistance program for Lebanon and that is something that has been active over the past couple of years and has been designed to help the Lebanese military to provide security for the entirety of the country,” said Casey.

“We intend to give them the kind of help they need to carry out their mission in support of the Lebanese people,” he added.

Lebanon’s National News Agency said U.S. Central Command chief Army Lt. Gen Martin Dempsey met Lebanon’s army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman in Beirut on Wednesday to discuss ways of supporting Lebanon’s army. No details were given.

Last May, the United States sent more ammunition to Lebanon as its army struggled to defeat a group of heavily armed Islamist militants inside a Palestinian refugee camp.

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