News from Beirut September 22  2001   ...Search

Lebanon, not "targetted" by US anti-terrorism manhunt

BEIRUT, Sept 22 (AFP) - Lebanon is not being "targetted" by the US-led anti-terrorism global manhunt and has so far not been asked to hand over any suspects, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said Saturday. "The Americans did not ask us for anything specific like what is being said," Aridi said in an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) television station. "Lebanon is not being targetted. There is nothing official until now, when they present an official demand to Lebanon, whether regarding sides or organizations or names, Lebanon will state its opinion clearly," he said.

Aridi however explained that "our position is that there is absolutely no way that we could agree on considering the resistance and those who resisted Israel as terrorists." "I hope the United States and others would consider this Lebanese position which I think is estimable," he said, adding: "Bring a solution to and put an end to Israeli terrorism and we will be ready to cooperate."

Aridi said the Arabs "agree (with the US) to confront terrorism, but there is a big terrorist (Israel) occupying our land and threatening our region, so can we know how to cooperate in order to confront this terrorism?" The pro-Syrian Almoharrer weekly said Saturday that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has asked nine Arab and Islamic nations to hand over hundreds of suspected "terrorists" as part of the massive world campaign launched after the September 11 attacks in the United States.

The report which remains unconfirmed said a list given to Lebanon featured 40 people, including Lebanese national Imad Mughniyeh, suspected of the 1984 kidnapping of William Buckley, the CIA's station chief in Beirut. Earlier this week Jane's Security web site said Israeli military  intelligence believes Mughniyeh was one of the masterminds of last week's terrorist attacks in the United States.

Mughniyeh is a member of the Lebanese Shiite fundamentalist Hezbollah, which remains on the US State Department's list of terrorist groups. Hezbollah has gained tremendous support at home and in many other Arab countries for spearheading the guerrilla resistance warfare against Israel that ended 22 years of occupation in southern Lebanon last year.

Hezbollah, with continued strong support from the Beirut government, Iran and Syria -- the main power broker in Lebanon -- is still pursuing attacks against the Israeli army in the border Shebaa Farms area, claimed by Lebanon. Washington considers that the Lebanese Islamic Jihad -- which claimed deadly anti-US bombings and hostage-takings in Lebanon during the 1975-1990 civil war -- was linked to pro-Iranian zealots that formed Hezbollah in 1985.

Hezbollah, which reacted to the anti-US attacks by saying that it "regrets the deaths of innocent people in any part of the world," has accused Washington of targetting resistance movements in the Middle East. The United States says Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be in Afghanistan, is the prime suspect in the terror attacks that left thousands presumed dead. Lebanese national Ziad Samir Jarrah, 26, is on the FBI list of suspects in the anti-US attacks.


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