BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman reiterated Wednesday during a visit to south Lebanon his support for a national defense strategy that allows the Lebanese Army to benefit from Hezbollah’s arms.
“I hope steps to strengthen the Army will be complemented by the national defense strategy and that the resistance will be a support to the needs of the Army,” Sleiman said in a press conference at the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon in Tyre, accompanied by his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto.
“We have put forward [the defense strategy] proposal and discussed it during the National Dialogue, I have spoken about this previously so that we can benefit from the resistance and so that it does not use its arms inside Lebanon.”
The Finnish President arrived in Lebanon earlier in the day to discuss with senior officials bilateral cooperation and regional developments.
Shortly after his arrival, Niinisto headed to Tyre to inspect the Finnish UNIFIL contingent. He arrived by helicopter with Sleiman.
Sleiman said that incorporating Hezbollah's arms under Army control would keep the resistance from becoming a source of local political rows.
He added that he has worked to allow the Lebanese Army to do its full duty with the support of the resistance, "when [the Army] needs it.”
Lebanese political leaders were discussing the defense strategy proposed by Sleiman before the Dialogue stalled in September 2012.
Sleiman also said that the Army is stronger than before and expressed hope for more aid to the military, citing the United States support as a main factor that helped strengthen the military.
“Our aim is for the Army to be strong and to arm it with new and developed weaponry; no one should tell us that some weapons are forbidden to us as nothing is forbidden to us,” he said.
He also said that the army is studying what type of weapons to purchase with the $3 billion Saudi grant and expressed his hope that “Parliament will convene soon and pass the law for the [armament] program."
Late last year Saudi Arabia pledged $3 billion to Lebanon's military to buy weapons and supplies from France.