Middle East

Lebanon opens bank account for donations to equip army

Lebanese army parade on 66th anniversary of independence from France - 22 Nov 2009
Lebanon's army uses US equipment, such as these M-60 tanks

Lebanon's defence minister says the country has opened a bank account to receive donations to buy weapons for its poorly-equipped army.

The defence minister, Elias Murr, said he and his father, former defence minister Michel Murr, had deposited $670,000 (£430,000) to start the fund.

It comes after US legislators blocked $100m of military aid over concerns it might be used against Israel.

Four people were killed in a clash on the Israel-Lebanon border on 3 August.

Announcing the new bank account, Mr Murr said he hoped both Lebanese at home and living abroad would donate.

The US has provided Lebanon with $720m in military aid since 2006 and the Department of State has said military co-operation with Lebanon will continue.

Despite the US help, Lebanon's 60,000-strong military is considered ill-equipped.

Conditions rejected

Last week, the chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman, said he had used his legislative prerogative to suspend assistance to the Lebanese armed forces on 2 August.

He said there were concerns in Congress over the influence of Lebanon's Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement over the army and that weapons bought with the aid might be turned on Israel.

Mr Berman also said the border clash - which resulted in the deaths of two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist and a senior Israeli army officer - had only reinforced his decision.

Mr Murr said the US aid would be rejected if it came with "the condition that it does not protect its territory, people and border".

Iran and Syria, supporters of Hezbollah, have since reaffirmed their support for the Lebanese army.

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