From left, Ministers Hussein Hajj Hasan, Ali Hasan Khalil and Samir Moqbel attend a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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Lebanon's Cabinet Thursday rejected demands by radical groups to swap captured soldiers with Islamist detainees, giving the Army the green light to launch a military operation to release the troops.Prime Minister Tammam Salam, who chaired the morning Cabinet session, has opposed any negotiations between the government and Islamists holding the troops that would require a prisoner exchange.The 24-member Cabinet also agreed to continue needed contacts with countries that could have some leverage to release the soldiers, asking media outlets to report accurately on the case.Before entering the Cabinet session around 11 a.m., Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said he was among many who called on the government to speed up the trials of some 94 detainees. The men were arrested during and after the 2007 clashes between the Lebanese Army and Islamist gunmen in north Lebanon. Hujeiri confirmed that the Nusra Front was requesting the release of at least 10 Islamist prisoners in return for each of the military hostages.
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