Beirut wrangles over Hezbollah's weapons

Nov. 17, 2009 at 3:20 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Lebanese lawmakers grappled over the issue of Hezbollah's weapons as the new Beirut government puts the final touches on its policy statement.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri handed in his list of Cabinet ministers to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman last week, ending months of political turmoil. Hariri has now entered into talks with his top officials to draft a policy statement for his new government.

Officials have been at odds over the issue of weapons for the Shiite resistance movement Hezbollah, which won two seats in the new government.

Hezbollah under the terms of a 2006 cease-fire agreement with Israel is obliged to lay down its weapons. The United Nations recently urged the movement to abandon its arms in favor of full integration into politics.

Social Affairs Minister Salim Sayegh, who protested early policy talks, joined Hariri supporters in advocating displeasure with Hezbollah's weapons in the Cabinet statement, Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper reports.

Walid Jumblatt, the fiery leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, however, said defense strategy should be kept separate from the Cabinet debate.

"Before finding an alternative enabling the integration of Hezbollah's weapons within the official state's institutions, these arms in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces, remain necessary in order to confront a possible Israeli attack," he said.

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