BEIRUT ― The United States will give Lebanon an extra $140 million to help Syrian refugees and the communities hosting them, the State Department said during a U.S. visit by Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Lebanon is hosting at least 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled the more than six-year conflict there and who now make up about a quarter of the country’s population.
The latest grant means the United States has given Lebanon more than $1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance since the start of the conflict in 2012, the State Department said.
In its 2017-2020 Crisis Response Plan, the Lebanese government said it needed $2.8 billion to address the challenges of hosting refugees.
The U.S. money will be used for food, shelter and medical assistance for Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities. It will also support water and wastewater infrastructure projects, the State Department said in a statement.
President Trump said this week after meeting Prime Minister Saad Hariri that the United States will continue to support the Lebanese army in its fight to stop ISIS and other militant groups gaining a foothold inside the country.
“We encourage other donors to join us in providing additional humanitarian assistance for those affected by the crisis in Syria, including fulfilling not yet funded previously made pledges,” the State Department said.
Lebanon’s military has received hundreds of millions in military assistance from the United States and Britain in recent years, as part of efforts to bolster Lebanon against a threat from militants across the Syrian border.
Standing beside Hariri in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said Hezbollah was a threat to Lebanon from within. He called the Iran-backed group a “menace” to the Lebanese people and to the entire region.
U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation last week seeking to increase sanctions on Hezbollah by further restricting its ability to raise money and recruit and increasing pressure on banks that do business with it.
Officials in Lebanon have raised concerns that U.S. efforts to widen sanctions on Hezbollah could damage the banking industry because of the group’s widespread influence in their country. Hezbollah, classified by Washington as a terrorist organization, holds seats in Lebanon’s parliament and government.
Hariri said he had spoken with Trump about the proposed legislation and would have further meetings this week with members of Congress.
“Additional bills if they are to come, we believe that it’s not necessary … but if they want to issue these bills, we need to protect Lebanon from any miswording in the bill,” Hariri told reporters at a briefing.
Hezbollah backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria’s civil war and has sent fighters there.
“I’m not a fan of Assad,” Trump said. “What he’s done to that country and to humanity is horrible.”
The United States and Russia, a major ally of Assad, brokered a ceasefire earlier this month in southwest Syria.
“The more that the Americans and the Russians talk to each other, I think it’s to the benefit of the stability of the region,” Hariri said.