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Fri, Dec 19, 2008

Happy Holidays! Russia Will Give Lebanon 10 Free MiGs

Western World Not Thrilled With 'Gift'

It's the season for giving... but a gift from Russia to Lebanon isn't making anyone feel too merry.

Rumors that Russia would offer the government of Lebanon deep discounts on a number of MiG-29s have turned out not to be true. It turns out the 10 planes will be given to Lebanon at no cost at all.

The Times Online reports the gift is part of an agreement on military-technical assistance. Mikhail Dmitryev, head of Russia's defence co-operation service, is quoted as saying the jets would be taken from Russia's existing fleet.

He added that supplies of heavy armor to Beirut from Moscow are, "...now possible after the situation in this nation has stabilized. We view the Lebanese army as the main guarantor of this nation's stability, therefore the armed forces of this country must be strengthened."

Officials in Israel are not amused. The MiG-29 is one of Russia's best fighters, and a huge step up from the five outdated Hawker Hunter jets and 16 helicopters currently in the Lebanese fleet.

The growing influence of the Islamic militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon makes the new hardware a major concern, and the RIA-Novosti news service reports Lebanese officials also want Russian tanks, anti-tank rockets, air defence systems and helicopters.

Syria -- another enemy of Israel which has received military aid from the Russians -- had also reportedly been interested in obtaining not only MiG-29s, but modern Sam S-300 air defence missiles.

Moscow has said publicly it will not provide those systems to Syria... but one wonders how long such scruples will last.

FMI: www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/hizballah.htm

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