Beirut nixes int'l army on Syrian border

Israel demands foreign troops at border crossings to maintain arms embargo.

Israel won't lift its sea and air blockade from Lebanon unless Lebanese and international forces deploy at all border crossings, including those on the Lebanese-Syrian border, to enforce an arms embargo on Hizbullah guerrillas, an official said Saturday. Lebanon's interior minister has said only Lebanese troops would patrol the Lebanon-Syrian border, perhaps with some technical assistance from the international force. While the UN cease-fire resolution does not explicitly call on the international force to police the Syrian frontier, it said peacekeepers could help Lebanon, at its government's request, to secure its borders and prevent illegal weapons from entering the country. Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said on Friday that only the Lebanese army was authorized to monitor the border crossings. He insisted that Lebanon did not accept instructions from anyone, "Not from the United Nations, not Israel, not Iran and not Syria." Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Saturday that the cease-fire resolution is very clear about imposing an arms embargo on Hizbullah. "The cease-fire calls for an international arms embargo against Hizbullah and the resolution of the cease-fire says clearly that the Lebanese army and the international forces must be at the different border crossings to prevent illicit arms transfers to Hizbullah, so Israel will be willing to allow for unfettered access in and out of Lebanon the minute those international and Lebanese forces are enforcing the arms embargo," Regev said. Earlier in the week, Syrian President Bashar Assad also rejected the presence of the international force along its border, referring to such a deployment as a threat to both Damascus and Lebanese autonomy. The United States dismissed Assad's comment as "preposterous."