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Lebanon's Army key to defense strategy: Sleiman

President Michel Sleiman during a Lebanese Army Day celebrations in Fayyadieh, Baabda, Lebanon, on Aug. 1, 2012. (The Daily Star/DalatiNohra HO)

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said Wednesday Lebanon was in dire need of a defense strategy that relies on the Lebanese Army.

“There is a dire need for a defense strategy that depends on the Lebanese Army in confronting the Israeli enemy's plots against Lebanon,” Sleiman said during a ceremony marking Army Day.

As he spoke, Israeli warplanes flew low over several areas of south Lebanon, including Sidon, provincial capital of the south.

When it came to the issue of weapons, Sleiman criticized the uncontrolled presence of arms.

“No to weapons that are randomly spread and yes to a flexible and open political conflict and not doctrines that torpedo freedom and others' opinion,” he said.

Sleiman said the Army cannot carry out its task outside a “national environment” and admitted the need to acquire sophisticated weaponry.

“There is a dire need to support the Army and supply it with sophisticated weapons,” he said.

Sleiman also stressed the need to distance Lebanon from regional conflicts.

“Yes to keeping Lebanon neutral regarding the axes' political policies and regional conflicts; and no to keeping Lebanon neutral regarding its surroundings, including the Palestinian cause,” he said as Lebanon celebrated the 67th anniversary of the Lebanese Armed Forces in Fayyadieh, northeast of Beirut.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati attended the event but did not deliver a speech.

In a statement released by his press office to mark the occasion, he said that his government is close to approving a $1.6 billion plan to boost the military's capabilities.

“The government, which works to secure the needs of the army, is close to approving a four-year, comprehensive plan at a cost estimated at $1.6,” he said.

Mikati also hailed the military’s “sacrifices in defending Lebanon’s integrity, strengthening its unity, maintaining security throughout the country, defusing strife and fighting terrorism.”

For such services, Mikati added, the Lebanese Army “deserves the admiration, affection and appreciation of the Lebanese.”

Meanwhile, Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel called for providing the Army with the political support necessary to enable its members to fulfill all their national duties, stressing that the military institution is the “backbone” of the Lebanese state.

“Weapons, defense and security tasks should be limited to members of the Army,” Gemayel said in a statement issued Wednesday, in which he congratulated the military on its 67th anniversary.

The lawmaker also hailed the Army for its efforts in the midst of "dangerous internal and regional conditions,” calling on the Lebanese people to rally around the institution “that guarantees and preserves national security.”

Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji was recently subjected to a verbal attack by Future MP Moeen Merhebi, who accused him of being a “failure,” but fellow Future MP Hadi Hobeish said Monday that Merhebi's remarks do not represent the views of the Future Movement.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri also congratulated the Army on the 67th anniversary of its founding, according to a press release issued by his office. In the brief statement, Hariri also expressed "his hope that the Army would remain the protective shield of Lebanon's sovereignty, independence and unity."

 

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