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Lebanon’s Defense Minister: We Will Talk With Hezbollah on Arms Strategy

Lebanon’s Defense Minister: We Will Talk With Hezbollah on Arms Strategy

Wednesday, 22 May, 2019 - 06:30
Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Beirut - Hanan Merhej
Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab said that all Lebanese parties must abide by the policy of dissociation amid regional tension between the United States and Iran.

He noted that Lebanon, as a member of the Arab League, was keen on preventing external interference in Arab countries’ affairs.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Bou Saab stressed that the national defense strategy, mentioned by President Michel Aoun in his oath of office, was evidence that the Lebanese Army should be the sole authority that bears arms and protects the homeland.
Talks about the defense strategy will begin immediately after resolving priority issues, in order to put all weapons under the Army’s sole authority, according to the minister.
“We need to reach a stage where the Lebanese Army is the sole party that protects Lebanon and its borders,” he affirmed, adding: “The Army has the capabilities, and becomes stronger when it has full political support.”
In this regard, Bou Saab said talks should involve Hezbollah and all Lebanese parties around a national dialogue table or within the Cabinet.
“But at the same time, I cannot overlook the greed of the Israeli enemy to this day with our oil, water and land, in addition to our differences on the border demarcation. If the Israelis threaten to launch any new war on the border… this will delay dialogue over a national defense strategy. How can Hezbollah be invited to discuss handing over its arms amid Israeli threats?” he remarked.
On the other hand, the defense minister ruled out the possibility of war, noting that the issue of demarcation would see some progress in the coming days and weeks.
Asked whether his ministry had evidence that confirm the Lebanese identity of the Shebaa Farms and the Kfarshuba hills, Bou Saab nodded, noting that he had a file in the Ministry of Defense prepared by the Lebanese Army about this matter.
“We must start communicating with the Syrians to resolve the demarcation in this region, knowing that there is no internal dispute in Lebanon or within the government on the Lebanese identity of this land,” he underlined.
Internally, the defense minister emphasized that the social situation in Lebanon was sensitive and required the adoption of a responsible budget based on a definite economic vision and austerity measures.
“Unfortunately some politicians and media outlets have held the security forces and the Lebanese Army responsible for the current economic situation as a result of salaries and compensation. This is regrettable because no one mentions the successive economic policies of squandering… and border smuggling,” he underlined.
Bou Saab revealed that the defense budget cuts amounted to around $300 million, adding that he had personally requested for the deductions not to directly affect compensations for veterans.

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