Lebanese leaders delay defence strategy talks



BEIRUT- Rival Lebanese politicians on Thursday postponed until August 19 talks on a national defence strategy that would incorporate the arms of Hezbollah, the government said.
"The dialogue committee continued talks on a defence strategy and agreed on August 19 as the date for the next session," a statement said, as the politicians failed again to reach an accord.



Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri
The defence strategy talks were launched in 2006 and have been repeatedly adjourned because of successive political crises and the thorny issue of Hezbollah's weapons.
During the session, deputy speaker Farid Makari called for a "timetable for the process of placing Hezbollah's military and rocket power under the command of the Lebanese army."
Makari, who is part of a bloc led by Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, urged Hezbollah to openly declare that its weapons aimed "exclusively to defend Lebanon against any aggression and are not tied to other axes or alliances.
"Lebanon's current defence power could turn into a risk factor if perceived as part of the wider struggle between Iran and the West," Makari warned in a transcript released by his office.
Thursday's session comes amid heightened tension in the region over allegations that militant group Hezbollah was stockpiling sophisticated rockets smuggled through Syria.
The Shiite party, which is backed by Iran and has two ministers in the current cabinet, has warned the government for years that its arsenal is not open to discussion.
Israel estimates Hezbollah's arsenal at some 40,000 rockets. That is a significant rise from 14,000 in 2006, when a 34-day conflict between the two enemies killed 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
The talks are also focused on disarming Palestinian factions outside Lebanon's 12 refugee camps. The army does not enter the camps by long-standing convention.
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Friday, June 18th 2010
AFP
           


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