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BEIRUT APPROVES HEZBOLLAH'S RIGHT TO DEFEND LEBANON


BEIRUT - Lebanon's new cabinet has agreed on a policy statement that acknowledges Hezbollah's right to use its weapons to defend the country against Israeli aggression.
Information Minister Tarek Mitri said late Wednesday after a cabinet committee set up to draft the statement met for the ninth time that an agreement had been reached.
  • He said the new statement will retain the same clause approved by the previous cabinet as concerns the arsenal of Hezbollah.
  • The clause states the right of "Lebanon, its government, its people, its army and its resistance" to liberate all Lebanese territory.
  • Hezbollah is commonly referred to as the resistance in Lebanon.
  • Israel waged a bloody 34-day war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006 after Hezbollah fighters seized two Israeli soldiers in a deadly cross-border raid that aimed to free Lebanese soldiers from Israeli prisons. The bodies of the soldiers were returned in a prisoner swap.
  • The war claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.
  • Hezbollah, originally a resistance group formed to counter an Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, had forced the Israeli military out of Lebanon in 2000. Israel, however, continues to occupy the Lebanese Shabaa Farms.
  • Israeli flights over Lebanon occur on an almost daily basis and are in breach of UN Security Council resolution 1710, which in August 2006 ended the war.
  • Mitri said that reservations concerning the clause by members of the majority would be noted in the government programme.
  • Some Christian members of the majority, including the Phalange Party and Lebanese Forces, argue that Hezbollah's arsenal undermines state authority and runs counter to UN resolutions.
  • However the resistance party, which has two ministers in the 30-member unity cabinet, has made it clear that its weapons are for defending Lebanon, and that is not open to discussion.
  • The party argues its arms are necessary to protect the country against any future aggression by Israel.
  • Lebanon's new cabinet is headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The winning alliance headed by Hariri won 71 seats in the 128-member parliament in the election against 57 for the opposition led by Hezbollah.
  • The Hezbollah opposition had actually secured the majority (52%) of the votes in Lebanon, but could not secure a majority of Parliamentary seats (it won 45%) because of the nature of the sectarian government system in the country.
Source: Middle East Online, Photo: Ign.Com
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