President says Lebanon needs Hezbollah arms amid Israel's threats

Suleiman said that Lebanon cannot and must not" tell Hezbollah to disarm at a time of heightened Israeli tension before reaching a deal on a defense strategy.

President says Lebanon needs Hezbollah arms amid Israel's threats

President Michel Suleiman said Saturday that Lebanon cannot and must not tell Hezbollah to disarm at a time of heightened Israeli tension before reaching a deal on a defense strategy that would also address any future Israeli attacks.

Hezbollah was formed during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It came out into the open as a mainly guerrilla group in 1985 but quickly began establishing social and medical networks in Lebanon.

"To demand now, in this regional atmosphere full of dangers and the drumbeats of war that Israel is banging everyday, and before we reach an agreement on a national defence strategy to protect Lebanon, we cannot and must not tell the resistance ... 'Give us your weapons and put it under the state's command'," Suleiman was quoted as saying in ad-Diyar newspaper on Saturday.

The current government, led by Sunni Muslim businessman Saad al-Hariri, has backed Hezbollah's right to keep its weapons to deter Israeli attacks.

Resistance by Hezbollah were instrumental in Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation.

Israel attacked the group in 2006 that that cost Lebanon a heavy civilian toll but failed to defeat its guerrilla force on the ground.

Suleiman has chaired periodic national dialogue sessions but politicians have been unable to agree on a national defence strategy yet.

Hezbollah members first entered parliament in 1992 and in 2005 the group it had its first government minister, completing its rehabilitation as a political party.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, 49, has headed Hezbollah since 1992 when his predecessor, Abbas Moussaoui, was killed in an Israeli helicopter raid. The party has participated in the Lebanese government since 2005.

Hezbollah holds 10 seats in Lebanon's 30-member unity government formed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.


Agencies

Last Mod: 09 Mayıs 2010, 13:23
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