Wikileaks: Saudis urge force to destroy Hezbollah

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal The Saudi proposal was dismissed as unfeasible and unlikely to get UN backing

Saudi Arabia proposed an Arab-led military force to destroy Hezbollah in Lebanon two years ago, a US diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks suggests.

Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal presented a senior US diplomat with a plan for a force backed by US and Nato air and sea power.

The US responded by expressing scepticism about the military feasibility of the plan.

Hezbollah is a Shia paramilitary group and political movement.

While Syria and Iran are Hezbollah's main regional allies, Saudi Arabia has strong ties with the country's Sunni community and the current Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the murdered ex-prime minister.

The cable is describes a meeting in May 2008 between David Satterfield, a senior US State Department official, and Prince Saud al-Faisal.

At the meeting the prince "argued for an 'Arab force' to create and maintain order in and around Beirut. The US and Nato would need to provide transport and logistical support, as well as 'naval and air cover'. Saud said that a Hezbollah victory in Beirut would mean the end of the Siniora government and the 'Iranian takeover' of Lebanon".

The cable came days after armed Hezbollah members took over parts of central Beirut threatening to overthrow the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

According to the cable, the Saudi foreign minister argued that a Hezbollah victory against the Siniora government "combined with Iranian actions in Iraq and on the Palestinian front would be a disaster for the US and the entire region".

He argued that the situation called for an "Arab force drawn from Arab 'periphery' states to deploy to Beirut under the 'cover of the UN'".

Saud al-Faisal said Mr Siniora strongly backed the idea.

Over the past two weeks, Wikileaks has released thousands of classified messages from US envoys around the world.

Washington has called their publication "irresponsible" and an "attack on the international community".

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