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Friday, September 08, 2006

Russia Ready to Investigate Weapons Supplies to Hezbollah — Lavrov

Mosnews | Fri, September 8th, 2006, 01:07

Russia will help the investigation if proof of Syria’s arms supplies to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah radical group is provided, the Russian foreign minister said Thursday.

“If the facts are put on the table and Russia can help the investigation, we will be involved,” Sergei Lavrov was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying ahead of his Middle East tour, which begins Thursday.

Israel’s Haaretz daily quoted intelligence sources in early August as saying that Israel’s ground troop casualties in the month-long fighting with Hezbollah mostly resulted from special Hezbollah antitank units using modern Russian-made RPG-29 that were sold by Moscow to the Syrians and then transferred to the organization.

Russia’s defense and foreign ministries denied sending weapons to Hezbollah, saying that Russia’s control over weapons exports was very reliable.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said last month Israel never provided Russia with evidence that Hezbollah militants used Russian-made antitank missiles in Lebanon.

Ivanov said that in recent years there have been rumors about the sale of Russian-made weaponry to Middle East countries and the possibility that some of these weapons ended up in the hands of terrorists.

“All these accusations simply reflect internal political problems in Israel,” he said, adding that they were “complete rubbish.”

Ivanov said Russia should not assume responsibility for weapons sold to foreign countries during the Soviet era, and critics should be more careful in determining the origin of weapons.

“Such insinuations are a source of bewilderment in Moscow, to say the least,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said last month. “If there are any questions raised, they can be addressed through normal diplomatic channels. So far we have had no such inquiries, and no proof has been presented.”

Lavrov will visit Lebanon, Israel, Syria and the Palestinian Authority September 7-8.
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