The agreement on the compromise language came after weeks of
dispute brought the government to the verge of collapse, and now
paves the way for Prime Minister Tammam Salam to put his government
to a vote of confidence.
Information Minister Ramzi Jreij told reporters that most ministers
had agreed on a compromise statement that declares Lebanese citizens
have the right to "resist Israeli occupation" and repel any Israeli
The deal was reached a few hours after Israel's army said it fired
tank rounds and artillery into southern Lebanon in retaliation for a
bomb that targeted its soldiers patrolling the border. No injuries
were reported on either side.
The Israel-Lebanon border has been mostly quiet since Israel and
Hezbollah fought an inconclusive war in 2006, but Israeli forces
still hold at least three pockets of occupied territory which are
claimed by Lebanon.
"Based on the state's responsibility to preserve Lebanon's
sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and the security
of its citizens, the government affirms the duty of the state and
its efforts to liberate the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba Hills and
the Lebanese part of Ghajar through all legitimate means," the
government statement said.
It also "affirms the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli
occupation and repel aggressions and recover occupied territory".
Agreement on the declaration paves the way for Salam to put his
government to a vote of confidence, almost exactly a year after he
was first asked to try to put together a cabinet following the
resignation of his predecessor, Najib Mikati.
The declaration reflected a compromise between the Hezbollah-led
political coalition, which sought to guarantee Shi'ite Hezbollah's
right to fight Israel and to justify maintaining its huge weapons
arsenal, with Sunni-led political opponents who sought to emphasize
the role of the state in carrying arms.
Tensions between Hezbollah and its Sunni opponents inside Lebanon
have been sharply heightened by the civil war in neighboring Syria,
where Hezbollah fighters have been battling alongside President
Bashar al-Assad's forces against Sunni rebels who are backed by many
[to top of second column]
Jreij said some ministers expressed reservations because the
statement failed to spell out Lebanese state control over the
military conflict with Israel and because it refers to "resistance",
Hezbollah's label for its military operations.
A functioning Lebanese government would finally be in a position to
pursue an offshore oil and gas exploration license round that was
delayed for months by the political deadlock.
Salam has also said he hoped the emergence of the new government
will allow Lebanon to hold presidential elections before President
Michel Suleiman's mandate expires in May and also hold parliamentary
polls that were postponed last year due to the political impasse.
Lebanon, still struggling to recover from its own 1975-1990 civil
war, has found its internal divisions worsened by the conflict in
Syria, whose sectarian divisions mirror its own.
Sectarian violence has erupted sporadically in the past year,
particularly in the north, and car bombings targeting both security
and political targets have increased dramatically, with
Hezbollah-dominated areas being the most frequent target.
Security sources said on Friday the death toll after two days of
fighting in the northern city of Tripoli between Sunni Muslims and
minority Alawites — the same sect as Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad — had risen to five.
(Additional reporting by Nazih Siddiq in Tripoli; Writing by Dominic
Evans; editing by Ken Wills)
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