Lebanon gives Hezbollah right to attack Israel

Some members of the cabinet's ruling majority disagree


Lebanon's new cabinet has agreed on a policy statement that acknowledges Hezbollah's right to use its weapons against Israel, despite disagreement by some members of the ruling majority.

Information Minister Tarek Mitri said late Wednesday after a cabinet committee set up to draft the statement met for the ninth time that an agreement had been reached.

He said the new statement will retain the same clause approved by the previous cabinet as concerns the arsenal of Hezbollah, which fought a devastating war with Israel in 2006 and is considered a terrorist organization by Washington.

The clause states the right of "Lebanon, its government, its people, its army and its resistance" to liberate all Lebanese territory.

Hezbollah is commonly referred to as the resistance in Lebanon.
Mitri said that reservations concerning the clause by members of the Western-backed majority would be noted in the government program.

Christian members of the majority, including the Phalange Party and Lebanese Forces, argue that Hezbollah's arsenal undermines state authority and runs counter to U.N. resolutions.

However the Shiite party, which has two ministers in the 30-member unity cabinet, has made it clear that its weapons are not open to discussion.

The party argues its arms are necessary to protect the country against any future aggression by Israel, which withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation.

Lebanon's new cabinet is headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose U.S.- and Western-backed alliance defeated a Hezbollah-led opposition supported by Syria and Iran in a June vote.