US State Department senior official to travel to Beirut

Undersecretary of State for political affairs David Hale will try to help break the stalemate over forming a government in Lebanon

A security man sets along the empty Foch Street in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, April 3, 2021. Lebanese authorities imposed a three-day nationwide curfew as of Saturday morning to try limit the spread of COVID-19 during the Easter holidays. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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US Undersecretary of State for political affairs David Hale will travel to Beirut on Tuesday for a two-day trip to help with the government stalemate, The National  has confirmed.

Mr Hale is set to arrive in Lebanon on Wednesday in what will be the highest-level visit for a senior US official since Joe Biden became president in January.

US sources told The National  that Mr Hale is due to spend two days in Lebanon.

He is expected to meet senior officials in Lebanon to try to break the stalemate in formation a government, which started when Saad Hariri was designated as prime minister in October.

Mr Hariri, facing opposition from Hezbollah and its allies, has not been able to form a cabinet and the country has descended into economic crisis.

Mr Hale is expected to carry "a firm message from the Biden team on the government formation", sources told The National.

Hanin Ghaddar, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the US was closely co-ordinating with the French government on Lebanon.

“Mr Hale’s visit confirms continued US interest in Lebanon, albeit limited, because of the US's shifting priorities in the region and internationally," Ms Ghaddar said.

“This visit comes as Europe and French officials sounded the alarm on Lebanon and threatened fresh sanctions on Lebanese officials if a government that addresses reform and accountability is not formed.”

She said there was also a focus on Israel and Hezbollah for the visit.

“It also comes as Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin visits Israel, where he surely discussed Iran’s operations in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, and its precision missiles project," Ms Ghaddar said.

"Mr Hale will likely reaffirm that position."