US secretary of state meets key Hezbollah allies in Lebanon

Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani

According to Aoun's office, he also told Tillerson that Lebanon rejects Israeli claims over parts of the countries' maritime border where Lebanon will be drilling for oil and gas.

USA diplomats have been mediating between Lebanon and Israel after a spike in tensions that also involved a dispute over a border wall which Israel is building, and Hezbollah's growing arsenal.

Tillerson is in Lebanon amid a growing dispute between Lebanon and its southern neighbor, Israel, over oil and gas reserves, and Israel's construction of a border wall that Lebanon says encroaches on its territory.

Lebanon signed its first exploration and production agreements last week with a consortium of France's Total, Italy's Eni and Russia's Novatek.

Tillerson's face-to-face with anti-Syrian government forces comes after the USA ignored last month's Russia-led peace talks in Sochi.

Tillerson is leaving Lebanon for Turkey.

Israeli leaders have warned that they won't let Syria become an Iranian base or a conduit for weapons bound for Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war in Lebanon against Israel in 2006.

Tillerson also stressed Washington's support for the Lebanese people and legitimate institutions.

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Tillerson also said the United States has had "fruitful meetings" with Europeans on the Iran nuclear deal, but said work on this issue was not yet over.

"Lebanese officials must tell the Americans, 'Listen to our demands if you want us to keep Hezbollah away from Israel, '" he said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that Hezbollah is threatening the stability of Lebanon and the wider Middle East and said the group should withdraw from foreign conflicts in Yemen and Syria. The proposal is based on what is known as the Frederic Hof framework, after the American diplomat who was responsible for Syria and Lebanon under the former USA special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell.

The "Hof line" between the two countries was originally proposed in 2012.

Berri, whose position is the second-most powerful in government, insisted during his meeting with Satterfield that the maritime border should be drawn up through a committee that stemmed from a 1996 ceasefire, state news agency NNA said.

"We are not a movement that accepts people who put themselves into a racist and sectarian box, lock it and then throw the key away", Hariri said on February 14, dismissing any possibility of an alliance.

As Israel's gas fields and shipping lanes grow more and more important, the country's navy is investing considerable funds and resources to defend offshore interests from Lebanese threats.

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