Lebanese PM says Hezbollah can keep arms, as new government convenes
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Lebanese PM says Hezbollah can keep arms, as new government convenes

Cabinet’s policy statement, read by PM Saad Hariri, affirms citizens’ right to ‘resist Israeli occupation and repel its aggression’

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri reads the government policy statement before a debate for vote of confidence, in the Lebanese parliament, in Beirut, February 12, 2019. (AP Photo/ Ali Fawaz, Lebanese Parliament media office)
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri reads the government policy statement before a debate for vote of confidence, in the Lebanese parliament, in Beirut, February 12, 2019. (AP Photo/ Ali Fawaz, Lebanese Parliament media office)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday indicated that his new government would allow terror group Hezbollah to keep its weapons, which it used in a major war against Israel in 2006 and have been frequently used since to threaten Israel.

Members of Lebanon’s Parliament began discussing the new government’s policy statement, which focuses on improving the country’s economic conditions.

The statement said that Lebanese citizens have the right to “resist Israeli occupation and repel its aggression,” in reference to the Iran-backed terror group’s right to keep its weapons.

Under UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah, Lebanon committed to disarming the Iran-backed terror group.

Hariri began the meeting by reading the policy statement, which calls for reforms in state finances, the economy and the crumbling electricity sector, which costs state coffers about $2 billion a year.

The statement stressed “the need for Lebanon to distance itself from external conflicts and to respect the Charter of the Arab League, and the adoption of an independent foreign policy based on Lebanon’s supreme interest and respect for international law to preserve the country as a peace forum,” according to the Naharnet website.

The new cabinet was announced late last month, breaking a nine-month deadlock that had deepened Lebanon’s economic woes.

Rival political groups in Lebanon had been locked in disagreement over the makeup of a new government since May, after the country’s first parliamentary elections in nine years. A breakthrough became possible last month after weeks of backroom deals, as Lebanon’s economic woes mounted.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a live broadcast speech, during a rally to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, in southern Beirut, February 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The new government is headed by Hariri, the Western-backed Sunni politician who has held the job since 2016. But Hezbollah, the powerful Iran-backed Shiite group, made significant gains at the expense of the largest Sunni party and now controls three government ministries.

US President Donald Trump’s administration expressed concerns about Hezbollah holding three cabinet posts and called on the new government to ensure that group is not supported by the ministries’ resources.

Hezbollah was formed in 1982 under the guidance of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to combat Israel. It has been Iran’s most successful investment abroad, serving as the Islamic Republic’s arm at Israel’s doorstep.

The group dominates the political and military landscape of Lebanon and possesses tens of thousands of trained fighters, as well as an array of sophisticated armaments. Its intervention in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad also expanded its influence and reach in the region.

At home, Hezbollah remains the unrivaled armed force, also making significant political gains along with allies in the last parliamentary elections. This positioned the group to secure three ministerial posts in the new government, including the powerful Health Ministry, which has one of the country’s largest budgets.

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