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December 1, 2006, State Department Daily Press Briefing - Lebanon

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 1, 2006



Demonstrations in Beirut / Stability and Situation in Lebanon
US Contacts with Lebanese Government Officials
US Committed to Supporting Lebanon’s Democratic Government


12:41 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. TGIF, happy Friday. Don't have any opening statements or announcements for you, so I guess we can go right to your questions.

QUESTION: Well, let me try you on the massive, hundreds of thousands of protestors in Beirut calling for the resignation of the Western-backed government. I don't see any indication yet of violence, but it's a very strong turnout. Does this meet the U.S. test of peaceful assembly?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, certainly we'll be watching these events closely throughout the day, but we do remain very concerned that Hezbollah and its allies with support from Syria and the Iranian Government are continuing to work to destabilize Lebanon. That's a point that we've made before and continue to be concerned about. The demonstrations, as you know, are aimed at toppling Lebanon's legitimate and democratically elected government. And certainly threats of intimidation or violence isn't something that I think anyone would consider democratic or a constitutional mechanism for changing government.

We, as you know, are committed to supporting Lebanon's democratic government. Prime Minister Siniora and his team as it rebuilds and establishes Lebanon's sovereignty. That includes through the implementation of resolution 1701 and other measures, 1559, as well. But again, I think what we want to see is things proceed in a way that is peaceful, that is democratic and that doesn't resort to threats of intimidation or threats of violence. And certainly with things like the assassination of Pierre Gemayel and other kinds of events, it's clear that there is a pattern of intimidation and efforts at intimidation of those forces aligned with Lebanon's democratically elected government.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. been in touch with the beleaguered Prime Minister with some expression of support or whatever?

MR. CASEY: Well, I know we've had a number of conversations with Lebanese Government officials certainly today on the part of our ambassador. I'm not aware of any phone calls the Secretary might or might not have made simply because she's not here in town. But our support for him, for his government and more importantly, for the Lebanese people and their efforts to overcome the legacy of 30 years of Syrian domination and occupation are firm and well known and we think that's not just a U.S. position, but that's a position broadly at the international community.

QUESTION: A quick question. That conversation, was the ambassador able to get through this crowd or you mean a telephone conversation?

MR. CASEY: I know the ambassador has called members of the government today. I'm not aware that they've had any actual physical meetings.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Yes. Back in Lebanon, is the U.S. doing anything extra regarding the situation in Lebanon, any measures or things are as usual?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, Samir, I think as you've heard us say before, we are supportive of the efforts of Prime Minister Siniora to help develop Lebanon's democratic institutions on behalf of its people. We are working with the international community to see that UN Security Council Resolution 1559 and 1701 are implemented. We are doing what we can to make sure that a clear message is sent to outside actors that intimidation and the use of violence is not acceptable. And we will continue to be working with our partners in the international community to be able to support the Lebanese Government again as they move forward not only to carry out their plans and their actions, but to do that for the benefit of the Lebanese people who elected them and put them in office in the first place.