Monday, December 6, 2010

Lebanon told allies of Hezbollah's secret network, WikiLeaks shows

Cable exposes deep regional and international concerns about volatile situation in Lebanon following 2006 war

Ian Black, Middle East editor, Sunday 5 December 2010

(Left: Lebanese communications minister Marwan Hamadeh.)

"Lebanon's western-backed government warned its friends that "Iran telecom" was taking over the country two years ago when it uncovered a secret communications network across the country used by Hezbollah, according to a US state department cable.

The discovery in April 2008 came against a background of mounting tensions between the Beirut government and the Iranian-backed Shia organisation, which escalated into street fighting in the capital just weeks later.

The US document, classified secret/noforn (not for foreign eyes) exposes deep regional and international concerns about the volatile situation in Lebanon amid fears of a new clash with Israel following the 2006 war.

Information on the Hezbollah fibre optics network, allegedly financed by Iran, was immediately passed to the US, Saudi Arabia and others by Lebanese ministers. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy was "stunned" by the discovery, the US embassy reported. The Lebanese are bound to assume that the information also went to Israel, for whom Hezbollah is a significant enemy and priority intelligence target.

The US cable is one of several that have been published in Beirut by the leftwing al-Akhbar newspaper which has apparently been leaked as part of the WikiLeaks cache obtained by the Guardian, the New York Times and three continental European publications.

Al-Akhbar has highlighted contacts between the March 14 movement led by the current prime minister Saad al-Hariri, the US and the Saudis, prompting denials or defensive reactions from those named.

Marwan Hamadeh, the Lebanese minister of communications, warned the US charge d'affaires of the risks involved after Hezbollah indicated it would see any action against the telecoms network as "equal to an Israeli act of aggression"........"

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