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Lebanese Cabinet faces House debate

By Majdoline Hatoum
Daily Star staff
Friday, July 29, 2005

BEIRUT: Lebanon's new government voiced its staunch support for Hizbullah and its resistance during the first day of a Parliamentary session set to give the new Cabinet an overwhelming vote of confidence. Addressing Parliament, Premier Fouad Siniora said the government would defend Lebanon's right to resistance, a term usually used to refer to Hizbullah, whose efforts served to end Israel's 22 year occupation of the Lebanese south in May 2000.

Siniora said: "The government considers the resistance a natural and honest expression of the Lebanese people's national rights to liberate their land and defend their honor against Israeli aggression and threats."

The issue of disarming Hizbullah is one of the biggest challenges that Lebanon will face in the coming months, as the international community is pressuring Beirut to implement Resolution 1559, which calls for disarming all armed factions on Lebanese land, including Hizbullah and Palestinian militant factions in refugee camps.

But Siniora failed to mention the UN resolution, despite a recent visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that

many perceived as an attempt to push Lebanon into implementing the resolution.

Instead, Siniora settled for saying: "The government affirms its respect for international law, good ties to international legitimacy and respect for its resolutions within the framework of sovereignty, solidarity and national unity."

During the session set to debate the Cabinet's policy statement, Siniora also said Lebanon would work toward "solid and balanced" ties with Syria, and promised to resolve a border crisis with Damascus that has slowed Lebanese exports to Arab countries. He also affirmed the government's determination to "free Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons."

Speaking after Siniora, Michel Aoun, a long-time opponent of Syria's influence in Lebanon, criticized the government'' policy statement.

Addressing Parliament, Aoun, who will withhold his confidence from Siniora's Cabinet, tackled the issue of armed resistance and asked the government to name other Arab countries that are conducting armed resistance right now.

He said: "We don't have any objection to the people's right to resist occupation. But we would like the government to tell us which Arab countries are resisting Israel as well. Syria has yet to fire one bullet in the occupied Golan Heights. Jordan has already signed a peace treaty with Israel and so has Egypt."

Referring to the occupied Shebaa Farms, Aoun also demanded that Lebanon's borders be officially marked to set boundaries for the resistance's work.

He said: "I demand the government specify which parts of our land are under occupation, so we know what we have to free. At least, when that happens, we will know when the resistance should turn over its weapons to the Lebanese government."

Copyright 2006, The Daily Star. * Posted for Fair Use Only