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France to sell HOT missile to Lebanon

by Staff Writers
Paris (UPI) Dec 20, 2010
Israel has voiced concern over designs by France to sell anti-tank missiles to Lebanon, warning that the weapons could end up in the hands of radical extremists.

Officials in Tel Aviv said the government had lodged a complaint with Paris swiftly after its announcement last week that it was preparing to sell 100 HOT missiles to the Lebanese armed forces. Other governments were also advised, including that of the United States.

"We have raised with foreign governments our concerns of Hezbollah's growing domination of the Lebanese government apparatus and concern that weapons transfer to the Lebanese forces will, in fact, become part of the Hezbollah arsenal," said an unnamed Israeli official quoted by the Defense News Web site.

The concern follows similar moves by Iran to bolster Lebanon's forces with urban warfare materials, which Israel fears could fall in the hands of Hezbollah and be used against its forces.

Military pundits argue that Hezbollah has already seen its arsenal increase in recent years with Russian-made anti-tank missiles, mostly provided by Syria.

Most recently, also, the United States lifted a $100 million freeze on U.S. military aid to Lebanon in a move intended to counter Iran's growing influence over the country. The freeze, earlier this year, was prompted was the border killing of an Israeli battalion commander by a Lebanese soldier.

A U.N. resolution has called for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias in Lebanon since 2004. But Iran has long aided Lebanon's Shiite group Hezbollah, which is spearheading opposition against the Lebanese government on charges of leaning to the West.

Israeli officials said they hope they will halt France's designs.

"We have good relations with the French and hope that in back channels this can be resolved," one official said on Saturday.

In Paris, though, officials say the 100 HOT missiles were destined for Lebanon's Gazelle military helicopters and would set to be delivered by the end of February.

There were "no conditions attached" to the deal, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Related details had been relayed by the office of Prime Minister Francois Fillon to his Lebanese counterpart Saad Hariri, the newspaper reported.

The French-made HOT anti-tank missile, with a range of 6 miles, is considered one of the most advanced of its kind. It has the ability to penetrate around 1,000 mm of armor and it can be mounted on combat helicopters or vehicles.

Intelligence officials estimate that Hezbollah has amassed more than 40,000 short and medium-range rockets capable of reaching well within Israel.

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