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Lebanon rivals delay tricky defence talks

Rival political leaders in Lebanon on Monday adjourned talks on a national defence strategy — at the heart of which lies the thorny issue of Hezbollah’s weapons.

A statement from the presidency said a team of experts will be formed to examine proposals on a defence strategy, and that another round of talks will be held on March 2 at the Baabda presidential place.

It added that participants agreed to work on the implementation of previous agreements concerning the issue of Palestinian weapons outside the country’s 12 refugee camps which house an estimated 400 000 people.

The camps are policed by the Palestinians themselves, but outside the camps weapons are also held by the pro-Syrian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and by Fatah Intifada.

Pressure has been mounting in Lebanon to tackle the issue of Palestinian weapons outside the camps after rockets were fired from the south into northern Israel during the Jewish state’s 22-day onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

Fourteen leaders from the main parliamentary blocs are taking part in the talks chaired by Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman.

A major stumbling block in agreeing on a common defence strategy has been the Shi’ite Hezbollah group’s arsenal.

Members of the Western-backed parliamentary majority say Hezbollah’s weapons undermine the state’s authority, but the group refuses to disarm, arguing that its armaments and militia are essential to defend the country against Israel. — AFP

 

AFP

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