US rep. urges Sarkozy to halt weapon sale to Lebanon

Steven Rothman requests French president reconsider sale of 100 anti-tank missiles to LAF over fears that Hizbullah would gain possession.

Hizbullah training 311 (photo credit: AP)
Hizbullah training 311
(photo credit: AP)
US Representative Steven Rothman (D-NJ) on Wednesday asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy to reconsider a reported sale of 100 anti-tank missiles to Lebanon.
"Reports have been circulating in the past few days stating that France plans to sell 100...(HOT) anti-tank missile systems to Lebanon by the end of February, 2011," Rothman said in a letter to Sarkozy. "As you know, Lebanon is in a precarious situation whereby Hizbullah is in a powerful position to usurp the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF)."
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Rothman explained to the French president that if the weaponry was to fall into Hizbullah possession, "Israel would be in grave danger of having your anti-tank missiles used against her."
"The stakes are too high, and the danger this would pose to Israel is far too real," the congressman explained. "I therefore respectfully request that you reconsider this arms deal of anti-tank missiles and seek to aid the LAF in other ways."
Rothman agreed "in principle that strengthening the LAF against Hizbullah is an important goal" but said that he believes "that providing the LAF with anti-tank missiles is neither helpful nor necessary in that regard."
Rothman is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittees on Defense, and State and Foreign Operations.
The French-made HOT antitank missile is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world, with a range of up to approximately 4 kilometers and the ability to penetrate around 1,000 mm. of armor. It can be installed on either vehicles or helicopters.
Israeli defense officials said that Israel had lodged a complaint with the French earlier this year after learning of the intention to sell the advanced weapons to Lebanon. Israel’s concern is that the missiles could fall into the hands of Hizbullah and be used against the IDF in a future war.
Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.