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US delivers 20 Humvees to Lebanese Army

By Staff
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WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) The United States delivered 20 military vehicles to Lebanon as part of a 40 million dollar military package designed to help the country's fragile government as it faces a challenge from Hezbollah.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey yesterday said the delivery of the high-mobility multipurpose vehicles -- popularly known as Humvees -- was a ''down payment'' of support promised to Lebanon's armed forces.

''These are going to be used as part of our effort to help strengthen that force and give it both the mobility as well as some of the other kind of technical and logistical support it needs to carry out its mandate,'' Casey told reporters.

Lebanon's armed forces are deployed alongside UN peacekeepers sent to the south of the country after last year's war between Hezbollah guerrillas and Israel.

The United States wants to support the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora both politically and militarily as it faces a challenge from the Hezbollah-led opposition which has vowed to oust him if he does not give them veto power in a national unity government or call early elections.

In addition to being a political party, Hezbollah also has an armed wing.

The package includes a total of 285 Humvees and more deliveries will be made in the coming months, Casey said.

In addition to the vehicles, the State Department said, the United States was providing riot-control equipment, training for investigating explosions and other help to Lebanon's Internal Security Forces.

Last year, the United States pledged to supply Lebanon with more than 40 million dollar in assistance to include military trucks, Humvees, ammunition, training, and spare parts and repairs for military equipment.

Casey said the United States intended to increase its military support and would ask Congress this year for more funds. He did not provide any figures.

The Lebanon aid is a fraction of Washington's military grants to Israel, which totaled 2.28 billion dollar in the 2006 fiscal year, ending on Sept. 30.

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