2009-04-13 00:00:00 : Lebanon > Politics
"Washington says military aid to Lebanese Army is meant to balance out..."
On April 9, the leftist daily As-Safir reported: "The US State and Defence Departments have ruled out any acts of violence in Lebanon prior to the upcoming parliamentary elections. In the meantime, US military aid will reach the Lebanese Army during the next two months. This announcement coincided with Lebanese Defence Minister Ilyas al-Murr's visit to Washington. David Hale, US deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, linked the US Administration's support for the Lebanese Army to the programme of the next government and the extent of its support for Security Council Resolution 1701 and to Lebanon's sovereignty, and not specifically to the results of the elections.

"At a joint news conference at the Foreign Press Centre, Colin Kahl, deputy assistant secretary of defence for Middle East policy, said the Lebanese Army is a professional security establishment and this is not expected to change after the elections regardless of the results. Hale said the US Administration "is working hard to make sure that all are working along the path of peace". He expressed his confidence in the security measures that will be taken during the elections, expressing his hope that the elections will take place without intimidation or foreign interference.

"Kahl, in turn, said he has recently spoken to Lebanese military commanders, adding that neither they nor the Pentagon saw any signs of violence prior to the elections. He added that "no foreign player should interfere in the elections and no internal player should use violence to influence the elections." Hale said the US Administration supports the goals announced by the Lebanese Army. These are implementing Security Council Resolution 1701, combating terrorism, and ensuring the security of the Lebanese people and Lebanese territories. He added that the US Administration supports efforts to build the army "after decades of negligence."

"Kahl noted that Jean Qahwaji is the first Lebanese Army commander to visit Washington, stressing that the Pentagon supports the Lebanese Army's efforts to spread its control over all Lebanese territories and implement Resolution 1701, "including the clause that calls for disarming the militias." He said what characterizes any state is its ability "to monopolize the use of force on its land." He added that the aid sent to the army is for the purpose of combating terrorism and "balancing out the influence of the terrorist groups and militias".

"M-198 howitzers, guns, machineguns, and gunboats are expected to be delivered to Lebanon in the middle of next month. Twelve unmanned aerial vehicles (about 96-cm long) are expected to arrive at the end of May. These are used for tactical purposes. The Lebanese Army personnel will start training on them in the United States this month.

"The Pentagon said these vehicles will help the Lebanese Army "deter the firing of rockets from southern Lebanon and monitor the gunmen's areas of activity". One armed Cessna will be delivered to the Lebanese Army after one week and the Lebanese Army pilots will start using it at the end of May after receiving training courses. The Pentagon said in this regard that it is helping the Lebanese Army boost "its air support capabilities." The Lebanese Army had earlier ordered two Cessna planes. Ten M-60 tanks will also arrive in Lebanon in the middle of May. The rest of tanks, numbering 56, will be delivered later.

"Al-Murr concluded his visit to Washington yesterday after meeting with Defence Secretary Robert Gates; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; David Petraeus, head of the Central Command; and John Brennan, deputy national security adviser for counter-terrorism affairs, at the White House on Tuesday. Hale said meetings with the defence minister on this level were meant to send a message that says the US Administration is holding "practical discussions to fulfil its promise to support Lebanon," while Kahl said a change of administration in Washington does not mean a change in the US interests in the region. He said the meeting between Al-Murr and Gates lasted 30 minutes and dealt with US military aid to the Lebanese Army. Al-Murr also briefed him on the latest security developments in Lebanon." - As-Safir, Lebanon
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