Syria, Iran, Hizballah Trying to Topple Lebanon, US Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The governments of Syria and Iran as well as the Hizballah terrorist organization are working to bring down the government of Lebanon, says the Bush administration.

Iran and Syria have used Hizballah as a proxy to threaten and attack Israel and to build a virtual Islamic mini-state inside Lebanon.

There is "mounting evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments, Hizballah, and their Lebanese allies are preparing plans to topple Lebanon's democratically-elected government led by Prime Minister Siniora," the White House charged in an unusually blunt statement on Wednesday.

"Any attempt to destabilize Lebanon's democratically-elected government through such tactics as manufactured demonstrations and violence, or by physically threatening its leaders would, at the very least, be a clear violation of Lebanon's sovereignty and United Nations Security Council Resolutions."

The statement came after Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah accused the Lebanese parliamentary majority of trying to enlarge the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon -- to "occupy Lebanon and disarm the resistance." Hizballah has said it will never give up its weapons.

In an interview on Hizballah's Al-Manar television, Nasrallah charged that disarming the resistance is an "American-Israeli demand." He threatened street demonstrations if a unity government including Hizballah was not formed.

The U.N. resolution that ended the Israel-Hizballah war required Hizballah's disarmament. But U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton charged earlier this week that Syria and Iran were trying to destabilize Lebanon by smuggling weapons to Hizballah.

Israel has come under international criticism its continuing surveillance flights over Lebanon. But Israel says that it will stop the intelligence-gathering flights only after the weapons smuggling across the Syrian-Lebanese border is halted.

According to the White House statement, one of Syria's goals is to prevent the Lebanese government from approving an international tribunal that would try those accused of assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

But the White House said such efforts would fail because the tribunal was not dependent on Lebanon. Top Syrian officials have been implicated in the 2005 murder, according to a United Nations investigation.

An editorial in a Syrian government newspaper accused the U.S. of vilifying Damascus and challenged Washington to make any evidence public on Thursday.

?This pure vilification is meant to raise turmoil in Lebanon and cause fallout with Syria, which paid with blood to maintain Lebanese independence and sovereignty,? an editorial in the Baath daily said, according to reports.

Syria has never recognized Lebanon as a sovereign nation. It considers the tiny Mediterranean country to be part of ?Greater Syria.?

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