Obama Invites Lebanese PM to White House

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JERUSALEM, Israel - President Barack Obama has invited Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Washington in May for his first official visit, Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday.

"The prime minister's visit is a symbol of the close and historic relationship between Lebanon and the United States," a statement by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs read.

"This will be the prime minister's first official visit to Washington during his premiership and the president looks forward to consulting with Prime Minister Hariri on a broad range of mutual goals in support of Lebanon's sovereignty and independence and regional peace and security."

Hariri, son of Rafiq Hariri, assassinated in 2005 while serving as prime minister - allegedly by Syrian agents - formed a unity government with Hezbollah last year, giving the group veto power over parliamentary decisions.

President Obama has also been seeking closer ties with Syria despite his decision last week to extend economic sanctions against Damascus in part because they continue to pursue weapons of mass destruction and support terror groups.

Both Hariri and Syrian President Bashar Assad have denied Israeli allegations that Syria is supplying Hezbollah with longer-range Scud missiles.

Israeli Military Intelligence chief, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week that Syria's transfer of long-range missiles to the Lebanese-based terror group was "organized and official."

"Weapons are transferred to Hezbollah on a regular basis and this transfer is organized by the Syrian and Iranian regimes," Baidatz said.

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