"We have no information about the existence of Scud missiles in South Lebanon," French Defense Minister Hervé Morin said Sunday during a visit to Lebanon. The minister, who met with his Lebanese counterpart, added that if Israel had any information it is invited to transfer it to France.
Morin visited French soldiers serving in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and praised them for their success in maintaining calm in the area since the second Lebanon war in the summer of 2006.
Morin also met President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Sa'ad al-Hariri, and said he is sure that "UNIFIL, the Lebanese government and all political forces in the area are interested in maintaining stability in the south of the state."
Israeli sources have accused Syria in recent weeks of transferring missiles to Hezbollah which are capable of hitting deep inside Israeli territory. President Shimon Peres accused Syria of giving Scud missiles to Hezbollah and Defense Minister Ehud Barak threatened that the Lebanese government would bear responsibility for any shooting onto Israel from its territory.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said a situation has been reached in which Hezbollah has more rockets and missiles than most governments of the world.
The French defense minister with UNIFIL soldiers (Photo: AFP)
Israeli intelligence believes that arms are regularly transferred from Syria and Iran via Lebanon to Hezbollah. Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, the head of the research division of Military Intelligence, said "This isn't weapons smuggling to Lebanon – it's organized and official weapons transfer." Baidatz also said that Hezbollah had received long-range missiles, and that this was "just the tip of the iceberg."
Damascus denies the reports. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem rejected the accusations of Israel and the US, calling them "American defamation propaganda."
The public still remembers the propaganda that led to the US war on Iraq, he said, meaning the US claims that Iraq leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction – claims which were later exposed as fiction.