BEIRUT (AP) – Lebanese Secretary of State has sued the US ambassador to Beirut over comments she recently made criticizing the militant Hezbollah group, the state-led National News Agency reported Sunday.
The agency has said nothing more than to say that the meeting between Secretary of State Nassif Hitti and Ambassador Dorothy Shea is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
Local media said the minister will tell the ambassador that under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, an ambassador has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of another country and may not incite the Lebanese people against each other.
On Saturday, a Lebanese judge banned local and foreign media outlets in the country from interviewing the US ambassador for a year saying that her criticism of Hezbollah was inflammatory and a threat to social peace.
The judge’s ruling came a day after Shea told Saudi TV channel Al-Hadath that Washington is “deeply concerned” about Hezbollah’s role in the government.
The move was harshly criticized by many in Lebanon, who enjoyed one of the freer media landscapes in the Arab world. Others, however, criticized Shea for comments that considered interference with Lebanese internal affairs
Since the court’s injunction was imposed on Saturday, several local TV stations have broadcast new comments from Shea describing the judge’s decision as “unfortunate.” She added that a senior Lebanese government official, whom she did not mention, apologized.
“I was approached yesterday afternoon by a very high-ranking and well-placed official in the Lebanese government, and this official apologized and reported that this statement was not in proper status,” Shea told the local MTV station on Sunday. Shea added that the official told her that the government will “take the necessary steps to reverse it”.
The court’s ruling reflected the mounting tension between the US and Hezbollah. It also showed a growing gap among the groups in Lebanon, facing the worst economic crisis in its modern history.
Hezbollah legislator Hassan Fadlallah called Shea’s comments Sunday “a blatant aggression against our country’s sovereignty and its national dignity.” He called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to compel the ambassador to “respect international law”.
Lebanon is gripped by an exacerbating financial crisis and talks with the International Monetary Fund for aid have been complicated by political contradictions.
Shea said Lebanon has been shaken by years of corruption of successive governments and accused Hezbollah of transferring government funds for its own purposes and hindering the necessary economic reforms.
Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia group and its allies are dominant in parliament and support the current government. It has been designated a terrorist group by Washington and the US has continued to expand its sanctions against the group.
However, Washington is one of the largest donors to the Lebanese Army, making for one of the more complicated diplomatic balancing exercises in the region.
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