Lebanese defence minister denies WikiLeaks content

December 03, 2010 - 10:38:19 pm

BEIRUT: Lebanese Defence Minister Elias Murr yesterday denied allegations in a diplomatic cable revealed by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks that he gave advice to Israel in 2008 on how to get rid of Hezbollah, an aide said.

“The information posted by WikiLeaks is not complete and is not accurate,” said Murr aide George Soulage. “The aim behind this is to sow discord in Lebanon.” Soulage said that while the minister did meet with Michele Sison, who was the US ambassador in 2008, a cable published in Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on Thursday did not accurately reflect the tenor of their talks.

“The cable does not reflect the truth about what happened during the meeting and it has no value,” he said. According to the cable, Murr expressed concern during his March 10, 2008 meeting with Sison that another war between Hezbollah and Israel was imminent.

Israel attacked Lebanon in the summer of 2006 after guerrillas from the Shia militant party captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. The war killed 1,200 Lebanese, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

“Making clear that he was not responsible for passing messages to Israel, Murr told us that Israel would do well to avoid two things when it comes for Hezbollah,” the cable read.

“One, it must not touch the Blue Line or the UNSCR 1701 areas as this will keep Hezbollah out of these areas,” said the memo, referring to the border region in southern Lebanon patrolled by UN peacekeepers.

“Two, Israel cannot bomb bridges and infrastructure in the Christian areas,” Murr is cited as saying. The cable adds that, according to Murr, in the case of any new conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, “this war is not with Lebanon, it is with Hezbollah”.

It said Murr had given “guidance to (army chief Michel) Sleiman that the Lebanese Armed Forces should not get involved ‘when Israel comes’.” Sleiman was elected president in May 2008, ending a protracted crisis between the Western-backed government and a Hezbollah-led alliance.

Another cable published on the Al-Akhbar website quoted Christian leader Samir Geagea, a key member of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s “March 14” coalition, as telling US embassy officials in 2008 that the premier opposed boosting an independent Shia leader to counter Hezbollah.