The dawn to early afternoon raid on Saturday was carried out by Lebanese and Syrian security forces, as well as Lebanon's anti-drugs unit, while military helicopters scanned the arid hills on the border with Syria.

"The Lebanese army, which led the operation, committed enough troops to avoid any confrontation," said Interior Minister Elias Murr, who supervised the raid, in Hur Taala.

Military command said it had uncovered "two warehouses containing huge amounts of drugs, weapons, ammunition and counterfeit money".

International pressure

Under international pressure, mainly from the United States, Lebanon announced that 2002 was to be "the year of the eradication of drugs in order to preserve Lebanon's reputation and society".

But in 2001, the government did not prevent the harvest of Indian hemp (hashish), cultivated in the Bekaa valley under Syrian supervision.

Beirut said it had to show struggling farmers flexibility because of the country's dire economic crisis and the failure of a UN-backed crop substitution programme.

Aided by the Syrian army, the government also clamped down on drug cultivation in 1993. Cultivation and trafficking in drugs brought the country an income of some $4 billion annually in the 1980s, at the height of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.