x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Lebanese premier vows to equip armed forces

The comments are made following the recent deadly exchange with Israeli troops, as Israel complains that the US and France are supplying the state with weapons.

Lebanese president Michel Sleiman said today he would work to equip the armed forces with all necessary weapons following Tuesday's deadly cross-border exchange with Israeli troops. The former army chief was speaking during a brief visit to the village of Adaysseh just north of the border that overlooks the site where fighting killed two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist, as well as an Israeli officer. "At its next meeting the cabinet will draw up a plan to equip the army with all the weaponry it needs, and without taking the attitude of certain countries into account," Mr Sleiman told journalists without elaborating. "A campaign exists to prevent the army from being properly equipped, but we are launching our own campaign to ensure that it is," he added. Lacking both manpower and modern equipment including combat aircraft, the Lebanese armed forces have around 60,000 personnel. A statement issued later from Mr Sleiman's office said he had "launched a national, Arab and international campaign to equip the army, calling on neighbouring and friendly states to supply all kinds of arms that will allow him to defend the country." Defence minister Elias Murr and senior officers accompanied Mr Sleiman on his visit, which was marked by tight security. On Wednesday, Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak told public radio that the Jewish state had protested to both the United States and France over "the supply of sophisticated weapons to the Lebanese army" after the firefight. Last month the US embassy in Beirut in a statement in Arabic quoted an adviser to US Defence Secretary Robert Gates as saying Congress has approved 100 million dollars in aid to the Lebanese military for 2010. Adaysseh, with around 3,000 residents, is in a region largely controlled by Hezbollah, the Shiite movement that fought a devastating war with Israel four summers ago. The village square was the scene of a fierce battle during the 2006 war, and many houses were shelled at the time. Hezbollah sat out Tuesday's hostilities, but said it was ready to strike deep into Israel in the event of further "aggression." This week's fighting erupted after Israeli troops began to cut down trees that Lebanon claimed were on its side of the border. Israel and UN peacekeepers in the area said the trees were on Israeli territory. * AFP