‘Hezbollah’s long-range missiles can carry chemical weapons’

Lebanese politician tells Saudi newspaper that Assad transferred weapons with help of Iranians, who also built launch pads

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah addressing supporters via satellite link during a rally in the southern Lebanese border village of Aita in August 2013. (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Zaatari)
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah addressing supporters via satellite link during a rally in the southern Lebanese border village of Aita in August 2013. (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Zaatari)

Hezbollah is in possession of long-range missiles capable of carrying a chemical warhead, a Lebanese parliamentarian said according to a report Sunday.

Khaled Zaher, from the anti-Hezbollah al-Mustaqbal party, told the Saudi al-Watan newspaper that Syrian President Bashar Assad had transferred significant amounts of weaponry to Hezbollah, including the missiles. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps supervised the transfer of the weapons and helped build and design the launching pads in Lebanon, he said.

Zaher alleged that the missiles were deployed in bases in northern Lebanon — near the border with Syria — and in the central Lebanon city of Baalbek, some of them underground. He interpreted recent statements by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who said “Israel will face what it hasn’t faced in the past,” as an assertion that the missiles can reach Tel Aviv.

“We consider these bases a threat to regional security and a service to the Iranian agenda,” he said. “This has led us more than once to request that the international community put these military sites under its supervision.”

He said that the missiles were deployed in “areas that no one can approach or come close to. This indicates the danger of what these sites possess. We are certain they are long-range missile bases placed exclusively under Hezbollah’s command.”

In July, another politician from the March 14 alliance, of which the al-Mustaqbal party is the largest faction, said that Lebanon “is occupied by a terror organization called Hezbollah,” and that anyone who sits in a government with the Shiite group is a traitor.

Last week, a defected Syrian general told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that Assad had been sending his chemical weapons to Hezbollah and Iraq in order to avoid giving them up for destruction as he agreed to do according to the terms of a Russian-brokered agreement.

Last month, the general, Zaher al-Sakat — who commanded a chemical weapons unit attached to the Syrian army’s Fifth Division — made a similar claim in an interview with the Washington Post. In mid-September Al-Watan reported that Assad was smuggling chemical weapons out of Syria via tunnels connecting Syrian and Lebanese villages, while the Lebanese newspaper Al-Mustaqbal reported that 20 trucks laden with equipment used in the manufacture of chemical weapons were driven across the border from Syria into Iraq.

Israel has said in the past it would take action to stop Syrian chemical or advanced, “game-changing” weapons from reaching Hezbollah. A series of airstrikes in early 2013 — widely attributed to Israel — that reportedly destroyed missile convoys heading from Syria into Lebanon as well as damaging a chemical weapons production site, apparently put those words into action.

Last week, international inspectors arrived in Damascus to begin the monumental task of overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons in the middle of a civil war.

The inspectors from a Netherlands-based chemical weapons watchdog have around nine months to complete their mission, which was mandated by a Russia-brokered agreement with Syria and calls for finding, dismantling and eliminating Assad’s estimated 1,000-ton arsenal.

Their task was endorsed by a UN Security Council resolution that calls for Syria’s chemical stockpile to be scrapped by mid-2014. The deadline is the tightest that the experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have ever faced.

The inspectors’ mission was born out of a deadly chemical attack on opposition-held suburbs of Damascus on August 21. The US and its allies accuse the Syrian government of being responsible, while Damascus blames the rebels.

The chemical attack prompted the Obama administration to threaten punitive missile strikes against the Assad regime, touching off weeks of frantic diplomacy that ended with last week’s UN resolution.

Stuart Winer and AP contributed to this report.

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