Page last updated at 18:13 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Lebanese cabinet endorses Hezbollah's right to weapons

Hezbollah fighters on parade, November 2009
Hezbollah's militia is believed to have thousands of rockets and missiles

Lebanon's cabinet has endorsed Shia group Hezbollah's right to keep its arsenal of weapons.

The statement by the unity government said it respected the right of Lebanon's army and "its resistance" to "liberate Lebanese territory".

The issue of group's militia was at the heart of political deadlock before the new government was formed in November.

Hezbollah, which holds two seats in the government, argues it needs weapons to defend itself against Israel.

Five ministers from the Christian Phalange Party and Lebanese Forces "expressed reservations" about the clause in the policy statement.

Armed confrontation

In May 2008 Hezbollah deployed forces in parts of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, when political negotiations failed.

The new 30-member government led by Sunni, Saad Hariri, was formed in November, with Hezbollah its allies holding 10 seats.

Hezbollah's militia is believed to have thousands of missiles and rockets.

On Monday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah outlined the group's new manifesto which focused on Lebanese sectarian and political unity, and armed confrontation with Israel.

Hezbollah fought a war with Israel in 2006 during which more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, were killed. Some 160 Israelis, most of whom were soldiers, also died.

Lebanon maintains that Israel continues to occupy a portion of its territory, the Shebaa Farms area. This is despite the UN's having certified that the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon is complete and the area is part of Syrian territory occupied by Israel.

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