France Promises to Help Lebanon Reorganize and Develop Its Army

France promised today to help Lebanon reorganize and develop its army which will be supplied with modern tanks and light equipment. President Valery Giscard d’Estaing promised Lebanese President Elias Sarkis military and political help needed to maintain Lebanon’s territorial integrity and national independence.

French sources said that French help will be adequate to enable the Lebanese army to eventually assume control of the south which is now in the hands of various Christian militia. The French said the Lebanese forces might also eventually be strong enough to face a possible leftist and Palestinian threat.

French and Lebanese officials said the arms to be supplied will include light AMX-13 and medium AMX-30 tanks as well as helicopters, anti-tank missiles and three missile-firing speed boats. France will also help maintain the 10 Mirage-3 fighter-bombers which form the striking power of the Lebanese air force, and will help train Lebanese officers and technicians in France.

Giscard d’Estaing said today while offering a toast in Sarkis’ honor at the Elysee Palace that France will do all it can to enable Lebanon to “secure its independence, unity and territorial integrity.”

The French have consistently advocated a Lebanese national reconciliation, charging that the rightwing militias were as guilty as the leftwing forces in jeopardizing the country’s unity and independence. Giscard, sources here said, called on Sarkis to try and achieve a general Lebanese reconciliation, warning that any split or partition would “just be unworkable.”

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