France tells Syria to step up border security with Lebanon

3rd May 2010, Comments 0 comments

France wants Syria to guarantee security on its border with Lebanon, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Sunday after Israel accused Damascus of supplying missiles to Hezbollah.

"The situation is serious, dangerous," Kouchner told Europe 1 radio.

"There is a stockpile of weapons, short-range, medium-range and perhaps even long-range missiles and we are concerned."

A US anti-terrorism assessment team visited the main Lebanon-Syria border crossing last week amid allegations that Damascus had allowed deliveries of Scud missiles to its ally Hezbollah.

"We are asking the Syrians to guarantee the security of that border," Kouchner said. "I am not saying that it's a sieve because a certain number of facts have not been established.

"But this is dangerous and reinforces extremism," he added.

Last month, Israeli President Shimon Peres accused Syria of providing Scud missiles to Hezbollah. Damascus has denied the charges.

Israel maintains that Hezbollah has a stockpile of more than 40,000 rockets, some of which have a range of more than 300 kilometres (186 miles) that would allow the Shiite militant group to hit major cities in Israel.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates last week accused Iran and Syria of arming Hezbollah with increasingly sophisticated rockets and missiles, saying the arsenal undermined stability in the region.

But Gates did not say if Syria was supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles as Israel has alleged.

France has been spearheading moves to bring Syria out of diplomatic isolation since President Nicolas Sarkozy took office in 2007.

Hezbollah is the only Lebanese group that did not disarm after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, arguing that its weapons were necessary to fight Israel which it later faced off in a devastating conflict in 2006.

© 2010 AFP

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