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Lebanon army gets boost from Russian jets

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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-21-09 09:43 AM
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Lebanon army gets boost from Russian jets

"With Israel in a fragile cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza to the south, the army of this tiny country bordering Israel's north is for the first time getting some serious military muscle, including its first fighter jets in decades.

The influx of hardware begins with Russia, which is trying to increase its influence again in the Mideast.

Moscow's decision last month to provide Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 fighter jets comes at a sensitive time, with Israel just out of its second major armed confrontation in two years against neighboring militant groups.

The offer was made before Israel launched its offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers on Dec. 27 to stop rocket fire from militants on southern Israeli communities, but the conflict has made it all the more significant.

Separate cease-fires declared by Israel and the militant Islamic group went into effect Sunday, ending fighting that has killed about 1,300 Palestinians, according to Palestinian medical officials. Thirteen Israelis also have been killed.

Lebanon says it needs more hardware to ensure control of its southern border. During the Gaza fighting, militants fired rockets from southern Lebanon into Israel, prompting Israeli artillery fire.

The United States and Europe have long had an ambivalent attitude toward Lebanon's 60,000-member army wanting to beef it up as a lever against Hezbollah militants who control much of southern Lebanon.

At the same time, the U.S. and Europe fear that too much military hardware could enable the Lebanese to use it against Israel.

Either way, Russia's military grant to Lebanon triggered an immediate reaction, with Washington promising Beirut a few days later to deliver tanks."

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