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U.S., Israel lobby against missile sales to Syria, Lebanon

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel and the United States reportedly are attempting to prevent missile sales to Lebanon and Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart, in a bid to persuade Putin not to sell P-800 Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles to Syria, Haaretz reported last Friday. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is set to make the same case in Moscow this week.

Israel’s case is that Hezbollah used Chinese-manufactured missiles purchased by Syria to target Israeli ships during the 2006 Lebanon war.

Meanwhile, Israel and the United States want to keep France from selling the Lebanese military HOT anti-tank missiles, the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported.

In a Paris-datelined story, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat quoted French officials as saying that they had rebuffed such pressure, and that the delay in the delivery of the missiles was caused by the confusion arising out of Lebanon’s current political crisis arising from tensions over Hezbollah’s role.

Western powers want to prop up the Lebanese military as a means of containing the influence of Hezbollah, a terrorist group, but Israel’s wariness of Hezbollah influence into the military intensified after a Lebanese officer shot over the border and killed an Israeli officer on Aug. 9.

The United Nations and the United States determined that the Israelis under fire were on the Israeli side of the border trimming a tree that could serve as cover for an attack.

A Lebanese newspaper, al Liwa, reported last Friday that U.S. officials warned Lebanon that Israel would destroy Lebanon’s military within four hours should another such incident occur.