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Senior US General Visits Lebanon to Support its ‘Stability’

Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who heads the US military’s Central Command, paid a one-day visit to Lebanon on Wednesday, meeting with President Michel Aoun and other officials. The visit was seen as a show of American support for the country, which is reeling under severe economic stress owing to a huge foreign debt, as well as major social protests that have paralyzed the nation on and off since last fall. The Middle East is under the Central Command’s purview. Protesters greeted McKenzie as he arrived at Beirut’s airport. They were primarily supporters of Hizbullah, a heavily armed, Iranian-backed Shi’ite group that the United States has defined as a terrorist organization. Hizbullah has described some Western efforts to help the country get back on its financial feet as “colonialism.” The US Embassy in Beirut – where the ambassador has come in for recent criticism following her statements on steps needed for Lebanon’s recovery – issued a statement saying McKenzie “reaffirmed the importance of preserving Lebanon’s security, stability and sovereignty.”  The embassy also said the general would visit a memorial to the 241 US Marines and other troops killed in the 1983 bombing of a barracks near the airport, which Washington has blamed on Hizbullah. Some of the demonstrators at the airport expressed support for the attack