French missiles to Lebanon raise Israel 'concerns'

19th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Israel fears weapons sold to Lebanon's army could end up in the hands of militant group Hezbollah, an official said Sunday after France announced it would supply anti-tank missiles to the Arab nation.

"We have raised with foreign governments our concerns of Hezbollah's growing domination of the Lebanese government apparatus and concern that weapons transfer to the Lebanese forces will in fact become part of the Hezbollah arsenal," said an Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

France on Friday confirmed it would supply the Lebanese military with 100 anti-tank missiles, despite concerns raised by both Israel and the United States.

A French official said the 100 HOT missiles, to be used by the Lebanese military's Gazelle helicopters, would be delivered before the end of February and "with no conditions attached."

In August, a US lawmaker objected to the transfer saying the missiles could end up being used against Israel given despite Hezbollah's powerful position in Lebanon.

"The influence of Hezbollah militants and their Iranian and Syrian backers in the Lebanese government is rising," said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Therefore, to sell weapons to Lebanon at this time would be very irresponsible and could jeopardise security and stability in the region," the US representative said.

Israel fought a devastating 34-day war against Hezbollah in 2006, which claimed the lives of some 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, and destroyed much of southern Lebanon.

Intelligence officials estimate Hezbollah has amassed an arsenal of more than 40,000 short and medium-range rockets, which the militant group claims can reach deep into Israel. They are also believed to have other sophisticated weapons, including anti-aircraft guns.

© 2010 AFP

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