Hezbollah weapons must be discussed, says Lebanon President
LEBANON, Beirut : A picture taken on November 11, 2009, shows Hezbollah fighters, holding up Lebanese flags and the yellow flag of the militant Shiite Muslim group, as they parade on the occasion of Martyr's Day in the southern suburbs of Beirut. AFP PHOTO/RAMZI HAIDAR
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“We must review the National Defense Strategy particularly after resistance weapons went beyond the Lebanese border,” Sleiman said.
“It is time that the government holds the basic powers and be the one to determine the use of force,” he said in remarks at the military ceremony in Baabda.
Sleiman has chaired periodic National Dialogue meetings, but rival political leaders have been unable to agree on a defense strategy where Hezbollah's weapons would be integrated into the Army to protect Lebanon from Israel.
Hezbollah is heavily involved in the Syrian conflict, sending fighters to support troops loyal to President Bashar Assad in their war against a more than a two-year-old rebel uprising.
"The military task becomes difficult if one or more [political] party becomes involved in conflicts outside Lebanon," Sleiman said in a clear reference to Hezbollah.
He also cited the presence of illegitimate weapons as making the Army’s mission tougher.
Sleiman said the Lebanese Army stands firm in defending Lebanon.
“Gone are the days when the Army was prevented from defending Lebanon,” Sleiman stressed.
The ceremony, held at the military academy in Fayyadieh, Baabda, was attended by Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn.
Also present at the ceremony were senior military officials and Army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi.
Helicopters hovered overhead as the military show took place and the president handed in swords to graduating cadets.
"The Lebanese choice remains unchanged following the experience with [Israeli] occupation and militia-rule: a state protected by the Army,” Sleiman said in his speech following the officers’ graduation ceremony.