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Tillerson meets Lebanese PM, offers US support

AFP  |  Beirut 

US held talks with today in where he offered Washington's support for a "free and democratic"

Tillerson's visit, part of a tour of the Middle East, comes at a time of tension between and neighbouring Israel, notably over the role of Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.

The Iran-backed group, a member of Hariri's government, is an arch-foe of and branded a "terrorist" organisation by the

It is a key ally of Syrian and has fighters on the ground in the war-torn country supporting the regime.

Hezbollah's influence was at the heart of a political crisis in over Hariri's shock resignation announced from in November that was later rescinded.

"The stands with the Lebanese people for a free and democratic Lebanon," Tillerson, the highest-ranking US official to visit the country in four years, wrote in the visitors' book after talks with

On Wednesday, speaking in Amman, Tillerson conceded that Hezbollah is part of the "political process" in Lebanon, appearing to soften Washington's tone.

"We support a free, democratic Lebanon free of influence of others, and we know that Lebanese Hezbollah is influenced by This is influence that we think is unhelpful in Lebanon's long-term future," he said.

"We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon."

Later, US of State said however that Lebanon "would be better off without Hezbollah's terrorism and malign influence".

After his talks in Tillerson was due to head to seeking to ease tensions with the NATO ally over Ankara's ongoing operation against a US-backed inside

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, February 15 2018. 17:50 IST