Russia offers tanks, artillery to Lebanon


MOSCOW (JTA) — A Lebanese parliamentary leader said that Russia promised to sell tanks and artillery to his country.

At the same time, Russia expects Lebanon to recognize the independence of the Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, according to reports.

Saad Hariri, the leader of the majority in Lebanon’s parliament, said he discussed the arms deal with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in meetings on Monday.

"[Putin] promised to help the Lebanese army, which needs heavy arms right now," Hariri told the Russian newspaper Vremya Novostey.

Hariri pointed out that Lebanon already receives small arms and guns from the Americans, but that his country now needs tanks.

In return, Lebanon will establish contact with the Russian-backed governments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, sending a delegation of Lebanese businessmen to the war-torn Georgian republics, Interfax reported.

"The Lebanese know the situation of South Ossetia," Hariri said. "Lebanon is also a small and threatened country. On one side we have Israel, which has already attacked us more than once. On the other side we have Syria, which also threatens us from time to time."

Lebanon has not officially decided to recognize the breakaway republics, Hariri said. The decision would have to come at the "highest levels of government." But he said that Lebanon understands Russia’s need to "take action to protect its citizens and the local population" in South Ossetia.

The two republics are formally recognized as independent only by Russia and Nicaragua.

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