US Senator Joe Lieberman
US Senator Joe Lieberman, pictured in March 2012, expressed support for the Syrian opposition Wednesday, following meetings with top Lebanese officials and a visit to Syrian refugees in northern Lebanon. © T.J. Kirkpatrick - AFP/Getty Images/File
US Senator Joe Lieberman
AFP
Last updated: May 2, 2012

Top US senator visits Syrian refugees in Lebanon

An influential US senator expressed support for the Syrian opposition Wednesday, following meetings with top Lebanese officials and a visit to Syrian refugees in northern Lebanon.

"I and a number of my colleagues in the US Senate are very concerned about the conflict in Syria and about the atrocities that are being carried out by the government forces," Joseph Lieberman told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

"I'm also concerned that people in the region and throughout the world have not done enough to be supportive of the opposition in Syria to Assad," he said in reference to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The independent senator, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is hawkish on national security and, along with Republican John McCain, has advocated the arming of the opposition against Assad's regime.

Lieberman earlier Wednesday visited the northern Lebanese region of Wadi Khaled, which is located near the Syrian border and houses the majority of an estimated 24,000 Syrians who have sought refuge in Lebanon.

The senator and his delegation toured the Lebanese-Syrian border, escorted by the Lebanese Army, according to Mahmoud Khazaal, a local official charged with overseeing refugee affairs.

Lieberman met 25 refugee representatives at the official's home in the border town of Mukaybleh. "The delegation asked whether the aid which reached them was sufficient and promised to provide assistance," Khazaal said.

The senator said he "respects" the position of the Lebanese government, which is dominated by the Syrian-backed militant group Hezbollah, to "disassociate" itself from the conflict in Syria.

"I couldn't frankly make the same request to him (Mikati) as I made in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which is: please help these people in Syria that are fighting for their own freedom," he said.

Lieberman said he was thankful for the efforts of the Lebanese government and non-governmental organisations "to care for the Syrian refugees that are coming into the country in significant numbers."

The senator's visit to Lebanon, where he also held talks with President Michel Sleiman and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, concludes a regional tour that also took him to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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