Government control over Lebanon has weakened: Siniora
Last Updated Fri, 25 Aug 2006 20:41:51 EDT
CBC News
The authority of the Lebanese government over some parts of the country became "very insignificant" over the past three decades, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora says.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora addressed a number of issues in an exclusive interview with CBC's Nahlah Ayed. (CBC) In an exclusive interview with CBC News airing Friday, the prime minister also suggested that the government should seek ways to bring some members of the militant group Hezbollah into the Lebanese army.

Siniora didn't directly address the question of whether Hezbollah was running the country, saying instead that developments over the past three decades have "weakened" the state.

"Its authority over the various parts and various activities of the country, again in certain aspects, became very insignificant," he said.

South Lebanon has been widely considered to be under Hezbollah control for several years.

Siniora stressed that the state should become the sole authority and that only the Lebanese army, internal security and the international force carry weapons.

The UN resolution ending the 34-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah called for a 15,000-member international force to be deployed in Lebanon and be joined with 15,000 Lebanese troops.

'It's not a matter of disarming'

But asked whether Hezbollah should be disarmed, Siniora said the word disarmed is "not at all the right word."

He said that it will be "through dialogue, through co-operation," with Hezbollah that the goal of no weapons in the region is achieved.

"It's not a matter of disarming. It's through dialogue that we have to reach that point. And I think this can be achieved while at the same time you see, trying to find out how to integrate the numbers of Hezbollah that want to really get integrated within the Lebanese army," he said.

Siniora also said the Lebanese army is "definitely entitled" to prevent the movement of weapons from other countries into Lebanon, but suggested it won't act aggressively.

"But I mean, it's not there to use force. Let's make it very clear it's not there to use force, but if it has to use force to protect itself and to stop any infringement on the law, then definitely, this is the army and it has to do so.

"But it's different being there to go and use force, or being there to defend law and order and to stop any infringement of the law. That's something else."