France defends controversial security pact with Lebanon

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France on Thursday defended a controversial security accord with Lebanon as Shiite militant party Hezbollah demanded a clear definition of the word "terrorism" in the text.

"This is a classic agreement like those France's interior minister has already signed with our foreign partners," said foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

"The text includes technical terms, for example, for the fight against organised crime as well as cooperation in ... homeland security, crisis management ... and decentralised administration," Valero said in a statement distributed by the French embassy.

The pact stipulates the two countries should "boost cooperation" in fighting terrorism, money laundering and drugs.

Valero's statement made no mention of the word "terrorism."

Lebanon and France signed the agreement in Paris on January 21. The accord must be ratified by Lebanese parliament and the French senate to take effect.

Hezbollah has demanded "a text that either clearly defines 'terrorism' as per Lebanese and Arab laws or the omission of the clause that deals with counter-terrorism entirely," Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah told AFP.

"France's definition of terrorism includes Palestinian resistance movements, and that clashes with Lebanese law, which is in line with the Arab League's definition," he added.

"Without resolving this matter, the accord will not be passed in parliament."

The 22-member Arab League does not regard "armed struggle against foreign occupation," such as the Palestinian Hamas or Lebanese Hezbollah, as terrorist movements.

Hezbollah's pro-Western political rivals were outraged at the Shiite party's demand, slamming the group as "isolationist."

© 2010 AFP

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