BEIRUT —Lebanese Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri told a meeting of French diplomats on Thursday he believes in a need to "strengthen the Lebanese Army" against a backdrop of cross-border fighting between Hezbollah and the Israeli army over the past four months.
During the meeting in Ain al-Tineh, Berri and French officials discussed "the general situation in Lebanon and the region." Berri assured French officials of "Lebanon's commitment to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701" and the "need to reinforce the Lebanese Army, in terms of recruits and equipment."
The Amal Movement, led by Berri, is taking part in the clashes and recently announced the death of five of its fighters.
The French delegation received in Ain al-Tineh included French Ambassador to Lebanon Herve Magro, Director General of Political and Security Affairs at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Frederic Mondoloni, Director General of International Relations and Strategy at the Ministry of the Armed forces Alice Rufo, and the ministry's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa Emmanuel Suquet.
The delegation previously visited the Grand Serail to meet Najib Mikati. At the end of the meeting, Magro said he had presented Paris' "ideas" concerning the situation in southern Lebanon to Mikati.
The delegation was also received at the Bustros Palace by Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported. "Lebanon welcomes France's willingness to help find solutions to restore peace and stability in the regions bordering Israel", said the caretaker foreign minister.
He insisted on "a complete and not partial approach to the application of UN Security Council Resolution 1701," which put an end to the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.
"What matters to us today is to ensure the return of the inhabitants of the border villages to their homes, to protect Lebanon's rights and to recuperate the rest of the territories that Israel has divided up, to stop their violations and to reinforce the capacities and personnel of the Lebanese armed forces," added the Minister.
The tour of French officials comes two days after the visit to Beirut of the French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, who visited Lebanese leaders on Tuesday. According to Abdallah Bou Habib, his French counterpart had "warned that the Israelis could start a war."