US to build "strategic partnership" with Lebanese army

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October 19, 2007 00:05

 
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A senior Pentagon official said Thursday the US military would like to see a "strategic partnership" with Lebanon's army to strengthen the country's forces so that Hezbollah would have no excuse to bear arms. The comments by Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, in an interview aired on Lebanese television two days after his visit, followed a published report in Beirut that Washington is proposing a treaty with Lebanon to make it a strategic partner to counter increased Russian influence in neighboring Syria. Although the report published by the opposition-leaning newspaper As-Safir was at the time ridiculed by the US ambassador to Lebanon, Edelman's remarks shed a new light on the emerging relationship between the Lebanese and US militaries two months after the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam group was crushed in a 3-month long battle. "What we've been trying to do consistently is to create circumstances in which Lebanon can have a strong state, strong army, a democratic system with the military accountable to civilian control and to the government and to the people's representatives in the parliament," he said on the privately owned Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. television.

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