US’ Barbara Leaf Deliberately Avoided to Meet Lebanese Christian Powers: Report

 March 30, 2023

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf

“There will be American-Europe-Arab sanctions imposed on those who are obstructing the election of a new president.” The US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf issues a new warning, as reported by Lebanese daily, Al-Akhbar.

Leaf has met several Lebanese officials in her visit to Beirut last week, the paper reported on Tuesday as it revealed some details on the meetings.

Except for the sanctions threat, the American official gave neither a clear position on the presidential settlement, nor nominations of presidential candidates, as she focused on “the alarming reality Lebanon is experiencing in light of indications of that the great collapse is looming,” according to Al-Akhbar.

She also expressed her dissatisfaction with the “state of denial” practiced by the political class in dealing with the crises, whether the presidential vacuum or the economic turmoil, especially regarding the reforms required.

The daily quoted sources familiar with the meetings as saying that the US official “attended the five-way meetings held in Paris on behalf of her country, but she did not get into details related to the nominations.”

However, she said that her country would deal with any elected president, and disclosed that there were some disagreements with other four countries – in approaching the crisis in Lebanon – specifically with Saudi Arabia.”

In addition to the message that Leaf conveyed regarding the sanctions, there was another “implicit” message, Al-Akhbar added, noting: “Her visit schedule did not include any meeting with Christian powers in Lebanon.”

Political circles regarded Leaf’s deliberate move not to meet Christian officials – including Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi – as a great insult and exclusion of the Christian component. In this context, the circles interpreted Leaf’s decision in this regard as a way to hold the Christian powers responsible for the presidential vacuum, according to the paper.

“The Christian powers appear as if they are the only side which is hindering the election of a new president,” Al-Akhbar cited the circles who wondered whether the sanctions that Leaf hinted at “would only affect Christian figures.”

The circles also found it weird that Leaf’s move didn’t provoke any of the Christian powers “who were busy with the spat of the daylight savings time.”

Last Friday, Leaf met MPs Waddah Sadek, Ibrahim Mneimneh, Abdul Rahman Bizri, Bilal Al-Hashimi, and Fouad Makhzoumi, at the US Embassy in Awkar.

Attendees said that the meeting “reflects Leaf’s acknowledgment of the Sunni diversity and that Washington doesn’t consider Prime Minister Najib Mikati as their representative, especially since the meeting included deputies with different approaches,” Al-Akhbar added.

Source: Al-Akhbar Newspaper (Translated and edited by Al-Manar English Website Staff)

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