Russia agrees to send Lebanon helicopters instead of MiG-29s


Russia agrees to send Lebanon helicopters instead of MiG-29s

Источник: «The Daily Star»

Russia has agreed to provide Lebanon with an unspecified number of helicopter gunships instead of MiG-29 fighter jets, the Lebanese president’s office said on Friday.

The announcement came after President Michel Sleiman returned home Friday from a three-day visit to Moscow where he held talks with senior Russian officials about arming Lebanon’s military and the situation in the Middle East.

Sleiman’s office said in a statement that Russia agreed to Beirut’s formal request to provide Lebanon with Mi-24 helicopters instead of the 10 MIG-29 fighters originally planned.

«The army needs this type of helicopter, especially if they are supplied with missiles," the statement said. Lebanon’s request was based on a study by the Lebanese Army.

Sleiman is the first Lebanese president to visit Russia since diplomatic ties were established between the two countries.

In 2007, Lebanon’s military fought a three-month battle against Al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah Islam inside the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in the north of Lebanon.

The Lebanese Army crushed the group, but the clashes left 220 militants, 171 soldiers and 47 Palestinian civilians dead. During the battle, the army used French-made Gazelle helicopters against the militants.

The US has also been arming Lebanese troops for years, hoping that a stronger Lebanese military could impose the state’s authority across the country.

A strong national military is also seen as a possible counterweight to Hizbullah, which has been increasing its power behind an arsenal of rockets that threaten another US ally, Israel.

Last year, the US stepped up its military aid program to Lebanon, and decided to supply Beirut with battle tanks, the first since the early 1980s, after Russia promised in late 2008 to give Lebanon 10 MiG-29 fighter jets.

Sleiman also commented on the security situation in the Middle East during a speech he gave at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, where he was handed a doctorate degree for his work in supporting peace and reinforcing international collaboration.

He said achieving permanent peace in the region necessitated Israel’s determination to commit to peace choices, as well as the need for the international community to pressure Israel into implementing peace within a fixed deadline. He added the need for Israel to cease its violations to international laws, to remove its siege on Gaza and halt its attempts to turn occupied Jerusalem into a Jewish city.

Sleiman then referred to Lebanon’s challenges in establishing peace, especially after the 1948 Palestinian exodus and the Israeli invasions of Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and 2006. «Lebanon was able to liberate most of its occupied territories in 2000 thanks to the collaboration of its people, the resistance and its army and it is today seeking the full implementation of UN Resolution 1701," he said.

Sleiman also stressed that Lebanon was able to face the difficulties it encountered because it was a country full of diversity. «The philosophy of the Lebanese entity is based on dialogue, consensus and coexistence," he said. «However, coexistence is difficult in communities where diversity reigns. But Lebanon showed that it is able to face this challenge," he added.

Sleiman also called on preserving Lebanon’s cultural identity and historic legacy all the while marching forward in scientific development to face today’s problems. — AP, with The Daily Star

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