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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Aug 05th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Extremism In Lebanon arrow Sleiman tells US envoy army needs advanced weaponry
Sleiman tells US envoy army needs advanced weaponry PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star staff   
Wednesday, 08 October 2008

President Michel Sleiman with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Hale and US Ambassador Michele Sison
President Michel Sleiman with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Hale and US Ambassador Michele Sison

Hale says Washington's policy 'has not changed'

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said after meeting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Hale on Tuesday that the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) needed to be equipped with advanced weaponry in order to confront terrorism and protect civil peace in Lebanon. Hale, who was accompanied by US Ambassador Michele Sison, visited the Presidential Palace and discussed with Sleiman ways to enhance political and military cooperation between Beirut and Washington.

Hale briefed the president on the outcome of his recent talks with Lebanese officials.

Lebanon and the US signed on Monday three military contracts worth $63 million in US grants to the LAF.

The grants are aimed at providing the Lebanese army with secure communications, ammunition and infantry weapons.

Beirut and Washington also set up a joint military commission in charge of organizing their bilateral military relationship.

"We discussed with the president military cooperation between Lebanon and the US in light of the recent meeting at the Defense Ministry in the presence of a joint military commission," Hale said, referring to the Monday meeting between Defense Minister Elias Murr and US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Mary Beth Long.

"It is the first time that Lebanon and the US agree on this kind of cooperation," he said. "It is a new kind of long-term cooperation which includes a form of military partnership aimed at facing mutual challenges in fighting terrorism, which is undermining stability in Lebanon."

"We also assured the president that US policy towards Lebanon has not changed ... the US supports a free, sovereign and independent Lebanon which stays away from any form of foreign intervention," the US official added.

Hale also stressed that the US supported the full implementation of the Doha Agreement, including the recently-launched national dialogue, the reconciliations, and the ongoing preparations for next year's parliamentary elections.

The US official also told reporters after meeting Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri later on Tuesday that Washington was not willing to change its policies toward Lebanon. Hale stressed the importance of implementing all Lebanese-related international resolutions, namely United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701.

Later on Tuesday, Hale reiterated the United States' support for the Lebanese Cabinet after a meeting with Premier Fouad Siniora at the Grand Serail.

Hale told reporters that his discussions with Siniora touched on a number of local, regional and international issues.

The US official also reiterated his country's support for national dialogue among rival Lebanese leaders.

National talks kicked off on September 16 at the Presidential Palace under the auspices of Sleiman. The talks grouped the 14 politicians who singed the Doha accord last May. The second round of talks is scheduled to take place on November 5.

Also on Tuesday, Hale discussed with MP Michel Murr the latest local developments in Lebanon, including the security situation in the North.

Murr told reporters after the meeting that the US was not likely to change its policy toward Lebanon, irrespective of the results of the upcoming US presidential elections.

Murr said that Hale had assured him that the recent security warning issued by the US embassy in Beirut was nothing but a normal procedure that does not necessitate the existence of any specific danger.

The US Embassy had warned citizens of a security threat in Lebanon in the first half of October, linking the heightened risk to the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. The embassy said in an October 3 message posted on its Web site that it was reviewing its own security in light of the concern.

Asked about the recent Syrian troop deployment along Lebanon's northern border, Murr reportedly told the Hale that the deployment was only aimed at border protection.

"I do not fear Syrian military intervention in Lebanon ... even the Americans are convinced that the deployment is not aimed at carrying out a military operation inside Lebanon," Murr said.

Hale also visited Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud Tuesday.

In a separate development, the local LBC television quoted Israeli Web site Debka file as saying that the US was planning to provide the Lebanese army with a number of Cobra fighter helicopters that are currently positioned in Jordan.

The Web site said that the helicopters would be dis-assembled and transferred on board of large US jets that would fly over Israel while delivering the helicopters to Lebanon. It added that the Lebanese army might have a problem with the fact that the helicopters would reach Lebanon via Israel.

Meanwhile, Hizbullah MP Mohammad Raad said after meeting Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Tuesday that efforts were under way to arrange a meeting between Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Future Movement boss MP Saad Hariri. Raad led a Hizbullah delegation that included MPs Hussein Hajj Hassan, Amin Sherri, Nawar al-Sahili and senior official Ghaleb Abu Zaynab.

The delegation discussed with the retired general preparations for next year's parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, the Central News Agency quoted well-informed sources as saying that reconciliation among rival Christian leaders was likely to take place before November 5.

"If such reconciliation did not take place by this date, it will be postponed until after the 2009 elections," the sources said.

The Maronite League, which steered efforts to achieve Christian reconciliation, agreed with representatives of rival Christian blocs that the rapprochement should start with a meeting between Lebanese Forces boss Samir Geagea and Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh. The Geagea-Franjieh meeting will likely be held at the Presidential Palace under the auspices of Sleiman provided hurdles are overcome.

Also on Tuesday, visiting Deputy German Foreign Minister Gunter Gloser urged both Lebanon and Syria to take more measures toward restoring normal relations between the two neighboring countries.

Gloser made his remarks after a meeting with Berri.

The German official also discussed bilateral relations with Sleiman as he visited the Presidential Palace later on Tuesday.

President enjoys support of 75 percent of Lebanese

BEIRUT: A study carried out by the International Peace Institute (IPI) showed that President Michel Sleiman enjoyed the support of more than 75 percent of the Lebanese people, the Central News Agency reported on Tuesday.

The results of the study were conveyed to Sleiman by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon during the president's recent visit to the United States.

Sleiman met with Ban and made a speech before the UN General Assembly last month.

The study said that 75 percent of the Lebanese believed that Sleiman's performance as president was "excellent," while only 23 percent believed the president's performance was "ordinary."

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora scored 54 percent in the same study, while 42 percent believed that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was doing a good job.


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