BEIRUT: Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahhas said Monday that Israel has been able to alter telecommunications-related data in Lebanon “for a very long time,” in the wake of revelations that alleged Israeli agents had occupied sensitive posts in the sector.
Nahhas was speaking at a news conference called to discuss the recent endorsement of Resolution 75 by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), condemning Israeli violations of Lebanon’s telecommunications infrastructure.
Asked whether spies for Israel at mobile phone operator Alfa were uncovered after piracy operations were detected, Nahhas said suspected spies led to the uncovering of acts of piracy, rather than vice versa.
The parliamentary minority has used the revelations to cast doubt on the use of phone records by the investigation into the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hizbullah and its allies say the call patterns from the time of the murder might be manipulated by Israel to implicate Hizbullah members.
For its part, Hizbullah urged the Cabinet to follow up on the issue of Israeli penetration of telecommunications network Monday, saying the international community would also be under scrutiny to act.
Resolution 75 said Lebanon’s land and cellular networks have been and continue to be subject to piracy, interference and obstruction by Israel.
Nahhas said Lebanon’s success at the 23-day ITU summit in Mexico to push for the resolution should be followed up by steps to protect Lebanese telecommunication networks against further violations.
Nahhas added that certain parties threatened to halt financial aid to Lebanon because of its effort to pass the resolution.
“There were also attempts to block a vote on the resolution or hinder the quorum,” the minister added.
Nahhas said that out of 124 members, 57 members abstained from voting while 43 voted in favor and 23 opposed the decision.
“The international community is not an angelic place but an arena for political conflicts, which we fought with confidence,” the minister added.
Nahhas said using a secret ballot was among the major reasons behind the resolution that condemned Israel, since “everyone is aware of pressures that small states are subjected to by Israel in cases where the vote is public.”
As for compensation due to Lebanon for the damage inflicted on the telecommunication infrastructure in the July 2006 war, Nahhas said Resolution 75 re-confirmed Resolution 159, estimating the sum at $547 million. The resolution did not name Israel as the party responsible to pay the sum, however.