Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader, said on Friday he would call for Hizb Allah fighters to be integrated into the Lebanese army even without the resolution of Lebanese claims to the disputed Israeli-held Shebaa Farms border district.

"The Shebaa Farms issue lies at the heart of this motion that will be put before parliament," Jumblatt said at his headquarters in Mukhtara, just outside Beirut.
 
"The ownership of these farms is Lebanese but Lebanon does not exercise sovereignty there and I recently obtained maps showing that they were added (to Lebanese territorial claims) in 2001 and were absent in 1962.

"We refuse to allow this front to remain open until we have proved Lebanon's claim to these farms and secured their liberation ... just as we refuse to allow Hizb Allah to maintain a military wing separate from the army.

"The solution lies in the dismantling of Hizb Allah's armed wing and its integration in the army, like we did (with other militias) in 1991," he said.

Anti-Syrian alliance

An anti-Syrian alliance formed by Jumblatt, Saad Hariri, the son of the slain Sunni former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, and Samir Geagea, a Christian leader, swept parliamentary elections last year, the first in three decades free of the presence of Syrian troops.

But the majority bloc governs with the support of Hizb Allah and its Shia allies, who have five representatives in cabinet and enjoy the support of Damascus.

Jumblatt (C): Hizb Allah should
be integrated into army

Their ministers observed an extended boycott of the cabinet last year.

Shortly before Jumblatt's comments, Hizb Allah chief Hassan Nasrallah urged the Lebanese government to mend fences with Syria, saying that this was possible without undermining the search for the truth behind the killing of al-Hariri, Aljazeera said.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1559 passed in 2004 requires all militias still operative in Lebanon to lay down their arms, including Hizb Allah and Palestinian armed groups.

But the Lebanese government has so far made a distinction between Hizb Allah and the rest, referring to the former as a "resistance" force against Israeli occupation.