By JERUSALEM POST STAFFPublished: DECEMBER 2, 2009 16:38Advertisement
Lebanon's new government Wednesday endorsed Hizbullah's right to keep its weapons, the latest sign that the group has no intention of meeting a UN resolution calling for it to disarm.
Lebanon's government is a shaky coalition of Western-backed factions and Hizbullah, which has virtual veto power over the government. The group is said to have thousands of rockets and missiles hidden in basements and bunkers throughout Shi'ite Muslim areas of the country.
A United Nations resolution that ended the Second Lebanon War calls on the group to disarm.
Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said recently that his group has replenished its weapons stock since 2006 and now has more than 30,000 rockets, which he said can strike virtually anywhere in Israel.
On Monday, Nasrallah said Hizbullah would further improve its weapons capabilities to face off any Israeli threat, adding that armed struggle was the only way to regain "Arab lands" captured by Israel.
All 30 cabinet ministers voted Wednesday to approve the policy statement that endorses Hizbullah's right to keep its weapons. Five ministers from the pro-Western majority expressed "reservations" over the clause addressing Hizbullah, but did not vote against it.
The policy statement - which lays out the government's goals for the next four years - illustrates how the government is loath to take any strong action against Hizbullah for fear of sparking a crisis. The group has virtual veto power over the government's moves, most analysts believe, because sectarian violence could follow if it pulls out.
Many fear a renewed outbreak of the sectarian violence seen in 2008, when Hizbullah gunmen swept through Sunni neighborhoods of Beirut to briefly seize control after the government moved to curb the group's military communications network.
More than 80 people were killed in the violence that followed, pushing the country to the brink of civil war.
The new Lebanese government formed last month is headed by US-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, head of the Western-backed alliance which narrowly defeated the Hizbullah-led coalition in June elections.
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