Secret cable leaks fuel tensions in Lebanon

Lebanon`s defense minister offered US officials advice on how Israel could defeat the militant Hezbollah group.

Last Updated: Dec 03, 2010, 21:47 PM IST

Beirut: Lebanon`s defense minister offered
US officials advice on how Israel could defeat the militant
Hezbollah group in a future war and vowed to keep the Lebanese
army out of the fighting, according to secret diplomatic
cables released by WikiLeaks.

That memo and another secret cable that revealed US
secret spy flights over Hezbollah locations in Lebanon in 2008
are sure to fuel tensions between the militant group and the
Western-backed prime minister at a sensitive time.

A UN tribunal is expected to issue indictments in the
2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri,
possibly as early as this month.

The tribunal has caused deep divisions within
Lebanon`s government, which includes Hezbollah along with
pro-Western blocs led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son
of the slain leader.

There are fears of an outbreak of violence if the
court indicts members of Hezbollah, which claims the court is
bias.

The tribunal has exacerbated tensions and a deep
mistrust between Hezbollah and Hariri`s coalition. Hezbollah
has accused members of the coalition of collaborating with the
US against the group, including during the monthlong 2006 war
between Israel and the group.

The diplomatic records exposed on the WikiLeaks
website this week revealed a 2008 conversation between the
Lebanese Defense Minister, Elias Murr, and US officials in
Lebanon, in which he offered advice on how Israel could defeat
Hezbollah in a future war.

Although he made clear he is not responsible for
passing on messages to Israel, he said the Israelis should,
for instance, avoid bombing bridges and infrastructure in
Christian areas in a future war, so as not to turn public
opinion against them.

"If Israel has to bomb all of these places in the
Shiite areas as a matter of operational concern, that is
Hezbollah`s problem," Murr reportedly said.

Murr also said the Lebanese army would not get
involved in the next war, adding that the objective was for
the army to survive a three week war "completely intact" and
to be able to "take over once Hezbollah`s militia has been
destroyed."

The classified memo was published in full yesterday by
the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which was given an advance copy
of the document by WikiLeaks.

PTI