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Lebanon will not ‘hand over’ Hezbollah weapons: Foreign Minister | News

Abdallah Bou says Lebanon will guarantee that the country will not be used as a 'launching pad' to violate the interests of Arab countries.

Lebanon will not "hand over" Hezbollah's weapons, the country's foreign minister said ahead of a meeting with his Gulf Arab colleagues to correct ties.

Saudi Arabia and its allies suspended diplomatic relations with Lebanon following the broadcast of comments from then-Information Minister George Kordahi criticizing the Riyadh-led military intervention in Yemen. Kordahi, an ally of Hezbollah, resigned in December.

"I do not want (to Kuwait) to hand over Hezbollah's weapons. I do not want to end Hezbollah's existence, it is out of the question in Lebanon. We are going for dialogue," Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib told Al Jazeera, referring to a meeting scheduled for aimed at directing ties between Beirut and the Arab Gulf states.

However, in a nod to the Gulf's concerns, Lebanon will say that the country will not be "a starting point for activities that offend Arab countries", according to sources familiar with a draft government letter responding to the Gulf's conditions for improved ties, reported Reuters.

For the meeting in Kuwait on Saturday, Lebanon will provide its answer to the conditions for thawing relations, which have suffered as the armed group Hezbollah, a close ally of Iran, has become more powerful in Beirut and the region.

Hezbollah supports Iran in its regional struggle for influence with US-allied Arab Gulf states, which say the group has helped the Iran-already Houthis in Yemen.

The Yemeni war, which aims to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's internationally recognized government, has led to what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Hezbollah was founded by the Iran Revolutionary Guards in 1982 and has a powerful militia. Hezbollah fighters have supported pro-Iranian allies in the region, including Syria.

The group and its allies also exert great influence over Lebanese state policy.

Dissociation

The conditions provided to Beirut on January 22 by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah include setting a timeframe for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 1559, which was adopted in 2004 and calls for for the disarmament of non-state militias in Lebanon.

A draft government response seen by Reuters circumvents the issue and expresses Lebanon's respect for UN resolutions "to ensure civil peace and national stability".

But it does not mention any specific UN resolution or any steps to implement them.

Bou Habib told Al Jazeera that implementing Resolution 1559, which would require Hezbollah's disarmament, "will take time."

The Gulf Gap has exacerbated the difficulties faced by Lebanon as it struggles with a financial crisis that the World Bank has described as one of the sharpest depressions ever recorded.

The crisis stems from Saudi Arabia's unrest over Iran's growing influence in the region, including in Lebanon, which was once a traditional Saudi ally and recipient of financial assistance from the oil - rich kingdom.

In early January, the leader of the Shiite movement, Hezbollah, launched a verbal attack on the kingdom, accusing Riyadh of spreading "extremist Islamic ideology".

The visit to Beirut last week by the Kuwaiti foreign minister was the first since the breach. He said Lebanon must not be a platform for hostilities or words against the Arab Gulf states, and that members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were sympathetic to the Lebanese people.

In the draft letter, which Reuters has seen, Lebanon commits "verbally and effectively" to a policy of separation from regional conflicts - a policy adopted by successive governments, even as Hezbollah has sent fighters to Syria.

It also promises to strengthen the measures that Lebanon is taking in cooperation with other Arab states to prevent drug smuggling to the Arab Gulf states.

Hezbollah's opponents accuse it of links to regional drug trafficking - something they deny. In December, the GCC called on Lebanon to tighten border controls and take measures to deter drug trafficking through exports to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

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