mercredi 8 août 2007

US delivers 80 new humvees to armed forces

The United States delivered the Lebanese armed forces 80 new High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) - more commonly known as humvees - as part of the US military assistance to Lebanon. This shipment increases the number of such vehicles to 100 that the Lebanese armed forces have received during this year. Lebanon is receiving $255 million in military equipment and training from the United States in 2007, a 550 percent increase compared with 2006. The overall 2007 US military assistance package for Lebanon is valued at $270 million, which includes emergency ammunition.

Source : The Daily Star

vendredi 3 août 2007

Israel delays release of report on cluster bombs

The Israeli Army said on Thursday it was delaying the release of an internal report on its use of cluster bombs during last year's summer war in Lebanon. "The investigation of cluster bomb usage was thorough and involved many different sections ... Due to the sensitivity of the matter, the process of submission was prolonged," a statement said.

"Furthermore, the investigating officer was asked to add several elements to the investigation, which further delayed the submission of the final conclusions," it added. An army spokeswoman said, nevertheless, that the probe "was in its final stages."

UN officials have said that as many as 4 million cluster bomblets were dropped by Israel during its devastating air war against Lebanon in the summer 2006 war, and many of the munitions failed to detonate on impact. The United Nations' humanitarian chief denounced the use of the weapons in civilian areas across South Lebanon as "completely immoral."

More than 30 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded by Israeli cluster bombs since the August 14, 2006, cease-fire.

Cluster munitions spread bomblets over a wide area from a single container. The bomblets often do not explode on impact, but can do so later at the slightest touch, making them as deadly as anti-personnel landmines.

Source : The Daily Star

lundi 30 juillet 2007

US boosts Israel's annual defense aid to $3 billion

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a new $30 billion US defense package to Israel Sunday and voiced satisfaction over Washington's plan to supply state-of-the-art weapons to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states as a counterweight to Iranian influence. The aid boost to Israel has been widely seen as a US bid to help allay Israeli concerns over a package of arms sales, that could be worth some $20 billion over the next decade, which Washington is preparing for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

"We understand the need of the United States to support the Arab moderate states and there is a need for a united front between the US and us regarding Iran," Olmert told a weekly Cabinet meeting. The rare agreement reflects shared US and Israeli concern with the potential threat of an Iran with nuclear weapons.

He said he and US President George W. Bush, in talks at the White House last month, agreed Israel would receive $30 billion in military aid over the next decade, averaging $3 billion a year. Current US defense aid to Israel stands at $2.4 billion a year.

"This is an increase of 25 percent for the military aid to Israel from the United States. I think this is a significant and important improvement of the defense aid to Israel," Olmert later told reporters. "Other than the increase in aid, we received an explicit and detailed commitment to guarantee Israel's qualitative advantage over other Arab states," said Olmert.

A senior Israeli government source said that under the defense package, the United States agreed to sell the Jewish state the new generation F-35 fighter jet, advanced bombs and laser-guided missiles. A senior US defense official has said Washington is readying a major arms package for Saudi Arabia and the five other Gulf state with an eye to countering the changing threat from Tehran.

The proposed arms deal to Saudi Arabia would include advanced weaponry and air systems that would greatly enhance the striking ability of Saudi warplanes. It will also include new weapons for the United Arab Emirates.

One leading Israeli hard-liner warned that Saudi Arabia, although not belligerent at present, could be taken over by extremists. The western Saudi border is just a few kilometers from southern Israel. The Haaretz daily on Sunday cited US officials saying Saudi Arabia has asked that Congress be notified in advance of the planned sale, to avoid another showdown with Israel, while the Pentagon is asking the Saudis to accept restrictions on the range, size and location of the satellite-guided bombs, including a commitment not to store the weapons at air bases located nearby Israeli territory. Israel's southern tip is about 15 kilometers from Saudi Arabia across the Gulf of Aqaba.

Meanwhile, Oman said on Sunday that Iran did not pose a threat to the Gulf region.
"We do not see that Iran poses a threat to the Gulf region," Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the Omani Foreign Minister, told reporters after meeting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit. "Iran is a neighboring state and we have a common interest which is to maintain stability and security in the region," he said. Oman and Iran are co-guardians of the strategic Strait of Hormuz entrance to the Gulf, and the two have consistently maintained good relations.
Although the Israeli right voiced worries about the latest plan, it stopped short of outright calls to block it.

"I am very concerned." Yuval Steinitz, a key hawk on Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told The Associated Press. "I can understand the need to support moderate states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but on the other hand we have to remember that governments can be toppled, as in Iran."

Senior administration officials said Friday that Bush would seek congressional approval for additional military aid to Israel and also to Egypt, which currently gets $1.3 billion a year.

Source : The Daily Star

jeudi 26 juillet 2007

UN draft expresses concern over arms flow to Hizbullah

A French-US draft presidential statement presented to the UN Security Council on Wednesday afternoon expressed grave concern over "persistent reports" of breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanese-Syrian border in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

The draft statement, obtained by The Daily Star from the US and French missions in New York, follows UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's June 28 report on the implementation of Resolution 1701, which made detailed reference to violations of the arms embargo.

The draft statement expressed "deep concern about reports, which have not been refuted, that suspected armed Hizbullah elements are alleged to be constructing new facilities in the Bekaa Valley." The statement is dated July 23, the day Al-Jazeera aired the first part of Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's interview, in which he declared his group possessed an arsenal of rockets that could reach any corner of Israel, including Tel Aviv.

The draft statement took note of "detailed informations" received from the Lebanese government concerning "dangerous activities of armed elements and groups, in particular the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah Intifada." It reiterated the council's call for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias and armed groups in Lebanon. (...)

The draft also underscored the obligation of all member states, mentioning Syria and Iran by name, to "take all necessary measures to implement paragraph 15 of Resolution 1701 to enforce the arms embargo."

Source : The Daily Star

mardi 24 juillet 2007

Nasrallah says Hizbullah's arsenal of rockets can hit 'any corner' in Israel

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Monday the summer 2006 war with Israel did not succeed in diminishing Hizbullah's military potential, adding that his group possesses an arsenal of rockets that can reach "any corner" of Israel, including Tel Aviv.

"Every corner and any point in occupied Palestine are within our reach," Nasrallah said during the first part of an interview with the Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite TV station. "Tel Aviv and other than cities were certainly within the reach of Hizbullah rockets during last summer's war with Israel," he added.

Hizbullah fired around 4,000 rockets into the Jewish state during the war with Israel last summer. Hizbullah's missiles reached Israel's third-largest city of Haifa.

Source : The Daily Star

lundi 23 juillet 2007

Commercials to warn children of danger of unexploded ordnance

Two animation television spots, produced by Save the Children, Sweden, and which will soon hit local television channels, will help South Lebanon's children stay away of millions of unexploded ordnances dropped by Israel. Children between the ages of 13 and 18 constitute the majority of dead and wounded. Six children have been killed and 68 injured since the end of last summer's war, according to the national demining office.

"Children are the most at risk of death or injury from unexploded cluster bombs because they are more curious and less caution than adults, that is why it is important for us to constantly remind children and their parents of this danger," said Mazen Haber, who is managing the Early Recovery Program at Save the Children Sweden, in a press release.

The two 40-second cartoon spots will be broadcast 100 times for weeks beginning on the 22nd of July on Spacetoon Kids and Lebanese channels. The campaign against explosive remnants of the war will also include 100 billboards to be posted around Lebanon.

The campaign was funded by the Canadian International Development Agency through Save the Children Canada in collaboration with the Lebanese demining office, the Landmine Resource Center at Balamand University and Spacetoon channel.

Israel dropped more than a million cluster bomb over Lebanon during the last 72 hours of the war, according to the UN and Lebanese officials. Most of these bombs are attractively shaped and brightly colored like toys, Save the Children Sweden said.

Source : The Daily Star

vendredi 20 juillet 2007

UN official warns that arms smuggling from Syria threatens Resolution 1701

Williams says lebanese security provided evidence of weapons flow

Syrian arms smuggling to militant groups in Lebanon threatens implementation of a peace deal that ended last year's war with Israel, a UN special envoy said late Wednesday.

Michael Williams, UN coordinator for the mIddle East peace process, talked to reporters after briefing the UN Security Council on progress implementing Resolution 1701, which halted the war with Israel in the summer of 2006. "A great deal has been achieved but I think we're entering a more difficult period," Williams said.

"The continuation of that arms smuggling is a serious challenge to 1701 implementation." After the Security Council's meeting, the United States accused Syrie and Iran of playing a negative role in Lebanon and said there is clear evidence of arms smuggling across the Syrian border to terrorist groups.

US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States had sent a clear message in the meeting on "the negative role that Syria and Iran are playing and called on them to cease and desist from their negative activities" in Lebanon. "We also made it clear that we condemn all efforts to destabilize Lebanon and expressed particular concern with regard to the arms transfers that are taking place particularly across the Syrian border," Khalilzad told reporters after the session.

Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari dismissed allegations that arms were being smuggled across his country's border with neighboring Lebanon. "We denied it many times and we are still denying it," he told reporters after the meeting.

A UN-appointed team that assessed the border reported late last month that security was too lax to prevent arms smuggling. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria and Iran to do more to prevent arms smuggling into Lebanon, citing Lebanese and Israeli government allegations of violations of the UN arms embargo.

Khalilzad said there was clear evidence of "arms transfers to terrorist groups" inside Lebanon's borders. "There is evidence of preparations by groups such as Fatah al-Islam, preparations by groups such as PFLP-General Command that is also carrying out some preparations for attacks. There are arms that are coming in for Hizbullah," he said. Weapons transfers to Hizbullah are banned under the UN resolution that ended the 34-day war.

Jaafari claimed the information about arms smuggling provided to the Security Council came only from Israeli intelligence and none of it was from Lebanese authorities. However, Williams said "virtually all" of the arms smuggling documented in the secretary general's report to the Security Council last month came from the Lebanese government or Lebanese security agencies. "I think the situation is very serious," he told reporters.

Source : The Daily Star