- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 6 (UPI) — Defense Minister Khalil Hrawi said Thursday the United States had assured Lebanon that Israel would not use a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq as a pretext for military action against Lebanon.

Hrawi said Lebanon received signals and assurances that Israel was committed to preserve calm on the Lebanese-Israeli border. He, however, expressed fears that Israel won't keep its promises to refrain from using the war on Iraq to attack Lebanon and its Hezbollah resistance group.

He referred to measures adopted by Lebanon on its southern border such as closing the passageways to prevent the influx of Palestinians who might be deported by Israel.

He also feared that mocks raids carried out by Israeli jets might turn into "serious" airstrikes.

Hrawi criticized the United States for its war plans against Iraq and said Washington "is conducting this war in the name of democracy at a time the Arab people and regimes oppose the war."

He warned against ignoring the Palestinian problem by concentrating on Iraq, saying that there were "daily massacres" committed against the Israelis "while no one raises his voice."

Also Thursday, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud told Russian envoy Andrei Vdovin that his country was keen not to give Israel a chance to carry out aggressive action against Lebanon and Syria.

Lahoud praised France and Germany which, along with Russia, said they will not allow a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would approve using military force against Iraq. He noted the increase anti-war stands in the world and called for giving the U.N. disarmament inspectors more time to complete their mission of destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

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