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Middle East
Lebanon sets up army equipment fund
Bank account opened to receive donations to provide new weapons for ill-eqipped troops.
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2010 05:33 GMT
Lebanon's 60,000-strong army has received
$720m in US military aid since 2006 [AFP]

Lebanon has opened a bank account to receive donations towards supplying the country's army with new weapons.

Elias Murr, Lebanon's defence minister, said on Saturday that he and his father had already put $665,000 into the account, which was set up after a US congressman blocked $100m in military aid.

"I announce the launching of a fund to support and equip the army," the official news agency NNA quoted Murr as saying.

He said that there would be a plan to communicate with the Lebanese diaspora about supporting the fund.

Howard Berman, the chairman of the US House foreign affairs committee, said on Monday that he had suspended US assistance to Lebanon on August 2 amid growing concern in congress that weapons would find their way to Hezbollah fighters.

A day after the decision, clashes on the Lebanese-Israel borderled to the death of two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist and an Israeli officer. Berman, a strong supporter of Israel, said that the incident reaffirmed the concerns of congress.

The US has given more than $720 million to Lebanon in military aid, including assault rifles, Humvees, missile and grenade launchers and night vision goggles, since 2006.

Restriction and conditions

Murr reacted angrilyto Berman's decision on Wednesday, saying that Lebanon would refuse any aid that came with conditions that it could not be used in fighting with Israel.

"If someone would like to help the army without restrictions or conditions, he is welcome," Murr said.

"But those who want to help the army on condition that it doesn't protect its territory, people and border from Israel, should keep their money - or give it to Israel instead."

Hezbollah, the powerful Shia Muslim group that fought a two-month war with Israel in 2006, was not involved in the border confrontation, but in the aftermath Hassan Nasrallah, the group's leader, said its fighters were "at the disposal" of the army. 

Following the fighting along the border with Israel, Michel Sleiman, the Lebanese president, said he had "launched a national, Arab and international campaign" to equip the army.

His statement called on "neighbouring and friendly states to supply all kinds of arms" to allow him to defend the country.

Lebanon's 60,000-strong army is ill-equipped, with many of its weapons outdated and no air force.

Source:
Agencies
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