Lebanese President Michel Sleiman (centre) chairs a national dialogue meeting in Baabda
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman (centre) chairs a national dialogue meeting in Baabda. Lebanon's rival political leaders have resumed talks aimed at tackling the thorny issue of Hezbollah's weapons, against a backdrop of mounting tension over the turmoil in neighbouring Syria. © - AFP/Dalati and Nohra
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman (centre) chairs a national dialogue meeting in Baabda
Last updated: June 11, 2012

Lebanese leaders resumed dialogue on Hezbollah arms

Rival leaders in Lebanon agreed on Monday that the country must not become a base for smuggling arms and insurgents into Syria while rejecting the idea of a buffer zone between the two countries.

The political leaders agreed to keep "Lebanon from turning into a proxy of regional and international conflicts," according to a statement issued by President Michel Sleiman's office following a National Dialogue meeting.

Sleiman had urged the resumption of the talks, suspended for the past 18 months, in light of deadly sectarian clashes linked to the uprising in neighbouring Syria.

The statement stressed stability must be maintained along the shared border and that neither a "buffer zone" nor a "base or corridor for the smuggling of weapons and insurgents" would be tolerated.

Syria's government has accused some Lebanese opposition parties of financing rebel forces and smuggling arms to them.

The opposition Syrian National Council has repeatedly accused Damascus of breaching the border with Lebanon and of launching attacks against Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees alike.

Participants at the National Dialogue meeting described the atmosphere of the talks as positive.

However, key opposition member, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, boycotted on grounds the talks were futile and unlikely to address the weapons of Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria.

The subject of the arsenal of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, considered the most powerful military force in the country, was not broached during the meeting.

The National Dialogue was launched in 2006 but has been adjourned repeatedly because of successive political crises and has yet to resolve the thorny issue of Hezbollah's weapons.

Lebanon's political parties are deeply divided over the 15-month revolt in Syria, with the Western-backed opposition supporting the uprising and Hezbollah, which plays a key role in the government, backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah considers its weapons to be a legitimate defence against Israel, whereas the opposition believes that the state should have the monopoly on arms and decisions concerning war and peace.

The next session of the National Dialogue has been scheduled for June 25.

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