Saturday, December 18, 2010

France Will Give Lebanon 100 Anti-Tank Missiles

BEIRUT - France will give Lebanon 100 anti-tank missiles, a government official said Dec. 17, confirming a deal that raised concerns in Israel and the United States earlier this year.
"Prime Minister Saad Hariri was informed on [Dec. 15] of the French decision to supply the army with 100 ... HOT missiles that will be used by the military's Gazelle helicopters," the official told AFP.
"The missiles will be delivered before the end of February and are being given with no conditions attached," the official added.
In Paris, the office of French Prime Minister Francois Fillon confirmed that a letter to that effect had been sent to Hariri.
In August, a U.S. lawmaker objected to the transfer, saying the missiles could end up being used against Israel given the influence of the powerful militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
"The influence of Hezbollah militants and their Iranian and Syrian backers in the Lebanese government is rising," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"Therefore, to sell weapons to Lebanon at this time would be very irresponsible and could jeopardize security and stability in the region."
Press reports had said Israel, which fought a devastating war with Hezbollah in 2006, also expressed concerns.
In November, Washington lifted a hold it had placed on $100 million in military aid to Lebanon after receiving assurances that the army would closely monitor the border with Israel and that the assistance would not be diverted to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is considered the most powerful military and political force in Lebanon.
Intelligence officials estimate Hezbollah has amassed an arsenal of more than 40,000 short and long-range rockets as well as other sophisticated weapons, including anti-aircraft guns, that the party claims can reach deep inside Israel.

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