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UK announces up to €22 million in support of Lebanon's army as US withholds funds

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UK announces up to €22 million in support of Lebanon's army as US withholds funds
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REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
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The UK has announced up to $25 million (€22 million) in aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces for the 2019-2022 period as part of their "ongoing support to the sole legitimate defender of Lebanon," the British embassy in Lebanon tweeted on Friday.

Officials told Reuters on Thursday that Donald Trump's administration was withholding $105 million (€94 million) in security aid for Lebanon — two days after the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.

The officials did not tell Reuters why the aid was being blocked. The State Department did not provide a comment to Reuters either.

Washington has repeatedly expressed concern over the growing role of Hezbollah in the Lebanese government. The Shia group backed by Iran and listed as a terrorist organisation by the US.

A US official told Reuters that it was important to maintain security assistance in Lebanon as the continent is located in a turbulent region and houses thousands of Syrian refugees.

The official highlighted it was important to strengthen Lebanon's military.

"The security forces are entrusted with keeping Lebanon safe - including securing the borders, stopping terrorism and protecting peaceful protests," said the British embassy tweet.

After Hariri's resignation, which was propelled by nationwide anti-government protest, Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for the formation of a new government of technocrats.

"Ministers should be chosen according to their competencies and expertise, not political loyalties," Aoun said in a televised address to mark the completion of three years in office.

"Lebanon is at a critical juncture, especially in terms of its economy," he said.

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