By Ellie Youssef
Source: Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri began a visit to Washington on Monday, during which he will meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a number of US officials, according to a statement issued by his office in Beirut.
Nadim al-Mulla, an adviser to Hariri, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the prime minister’s visit to “is basically private and has no agenda,” but he added that he would hold meetings with US officials “to update them on the situation in Lebanon and to hear their point of view.”
The premier is set to meet Pompeo on Thursday.
According to US sources, the Hezbollah file is expected to top Hariri’s talks, amid mounting pressure from Washington on the group’s leaders, networks and financial activities, both in the United States and Latin America, as well as in Lebanon.
US media have reported that President Donald Trump’s administration wanted to exert more pressure on Lebanese financial institutions to ensure that they applied the conditions and sanctions imposed on Hezbollah, as well as stressing the need for Lebanon to abide by the sanctions on Iran.
Moreover, US support for the Lebanese Army will receive special attention, especially as Washington attaches the utmost importance to maintaining the security of the border areas between Lebanon and Syria.
A number of senators had proposed a tougher line on countering Hezbollah’s influence. Some circles are calling on the US administration to exert greater pressure on the Lebanese Army to impose its control over the ports and border crossings and to stop smuggling activities by the party.
Other issues that could be discussed during Hariri’s visit is the US mediation in the demarcation of the maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel, to ensure the proper regulation of the exploitation of gas fields discovered in the Mediterranean.