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Photo: AP
Italian soldiers in Lebanon
Photo: AP
US to arm, train Lebanese army
Instructors, military equipment worth USD 30 million to make their way from Washington to Beirut. Goal: Strengthening Fouad Siniora's government against Hizbullah, pro-Syria elements. Israel agrees to plan, tells Americans it is not headed to negotiations with Assad

The United States will arm and train the Lebanese army so that it can deal with Hizbullah and elements supported by Syria. Israel has agreed in principle to the plan, it was reported.

 

The Lebanse army is expected to undergo a significant change in the coming months. Moreover, the American government has decided to offer the Lebanese government headed by Fouad Siniora an overall military aid program.

 

As part of the plan, instructors from the US army will arrive in Lebanon in order to train Lebanese army units.

 

The American plan includes a number of stages: At the first stage, military equipment worth USD 30 million will be sent to Lebanon, including military vehicles and communication devices.

 

The plan was presented last week by the White House's National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's envoys, Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turjeman, who visited Washington.

 

The Americans explained to the Israelis that efforts must be exerted to strengthen Siniora's government opposite Hizbullah and other elements in Lebanon supported by Syria.  

 

The Israelis expressed their agreement in principle to the US plan to equip and train the Lebanese army, but requested that the Americans guarantee that the weapons do not reach Hizbullah.

 

'Assad taken hostage by Iranians'  

Another issue which was discussed by the prime minister's representatives in the American capital was related to the attitude toward Syrian President Bashar Assad.

 

The Americans rejected out of hand the possibility that Israel would hold talks of any kind with Assad, who according to senior US officials "has been completely taken hostage by the Iranians."

 

US government officials claimed that Syria was serving as a front base for Iran to carry out terror attacks against American targets in Iran and against moderate elements in Lebanon.

 

In addition, according to the Americans, Syria is encouraging and assisting Palestinian terror organizations operating from Damascus.

 

The Israelis calmed their interlocutors down and told them that Olmert had no plans to signal Syria that he would like to enter negotiations.

 

Itamar Eichner contributed to the report

 

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