Suleiman: We'll take land by force if talks fail

Lebanese president says move would be last resort; LAF paves road to Batara Farm, 300 m. from border.

Shaba Farms IDF 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
Shaba Farms IDF 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
Should diplomacy fail to return "Israeli-occupied land" to Lebanon, the Lebanese army (LAF) will take it by force, Lebanese President Gen. Michel Sueleiman said on Sunday. Suleiman was speaking at a press conference after meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad on the sidelines of the Mediterranean conference in Paris. The Lebanese president stressed, however, that the military option was the last resort. Assad said Lebanon had an important role to play in the Middle East peace process and that any progress in future Israel-Lebanon negotiations would be made in coordination with Syria. Meanwhile, in what is being interpreted in Israel as a declaration of ownership, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has built a road and set up a military position in the Shaba Farms/ Mount Dov area for the first time since Israel's withdrawal from that part of Lebanon in 2000. Israeli defense officials confirmed the move, which was first reported in the Lebanese media, but would not comment on its significance. According to the reports, the LAF paved a road into the Bastara Farm, which is on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line international border and lies just 300 meters away from the land that Israel conquered in 1967. Mount Dov - 20 square kilometers of mountains on the northeast border - was conquered by Israel from Syria during the Six Day War. Israel says the land belongs to Syria, while Hizbullah claims it belongs to Lebanon. Syria and Lebanon have not resolved the issue between them. On Friday, The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel was categorically opposed to a European proposal to transfer the land to the United Nations until ownership issue was clarified. "The Shaba Farms are of vital strategic importance for Israel and therefore have security significance. Handing the land over to the UN means that Hizbullah will be there," a top defense official had said.