Lebanese Official: Security Agents Helped Hezbollah Smuggle Arms

Druze leader Jumblatt: State lax on border control, calls for crackdown on Hezbollah camps near Syria.

A senior Lebanese anti-Syrian politician alleged on Saturday that Lebanese security agents were involved in helping Hezbollah guerrillas smuggle in weapons across the country's porous border with Syria.

Druse leader Walid Jumblatt told the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite television channel that there is complicity between Hezbollah and some Lebanese security agents on the border who are allowing trucks to pass without being searched.

"Nobody knows what's inside these trucks," Jumblatt said without elaborating.

Jumblatt, a legislator and key government supporter, also said in the interview that he believes the Lebanese army should enter Hezbollah training camps along the Syrian-Lebanese boundary. The existence of such camps has never been confirmed by the Hezbollah or Lebanese security officials.

Also, such a crackdown against the Hezbollah would spark a major upheaval. The Lebanese army has so far been refused to be drawn into a conflict with the guerrillas and has taken a neutral stand in the political crisis between government and the Hezbollah-led opposition.

The army has said it will not move against either side, but also that it would not allow the dispute to degenerate into street violence, as was the case in December and January, when clashes took on a sectarian tone. Nine people were killed in the violence. At the time, the army came out onto the streets and briefly imposed a rare nighttime curfew.

Jumblatt's comments came a day after France circulated a draft UN Security Council statement expressing serious concern at mounting reports of illegal arms transfers across the Lebanon-Syria border and authorizing an independent mission to assess how the frontier is being guarded.

The draft, sent to Security Council members late Thursday, welcomes the Lebanese government's determination to prevent transfers of weapons - banned under a UN resolution that ended last summer's war between Hezbollah and Israel. It also urges all countries, especially Hezbollah backers Syria and Iran, to enforce the arms embargo.

There is a state within a state, Jumblatt said of Lebanon in the interview. There is a Hezbollah army alongside the Lebanese army. There is Hezbollah intelligence alongside Lebanese (army) intelligence and there are Lebanese territories that the army is prohibited from entering.

The Lebanese army should have ... entered the areas between Lebanon and Syria that are off-limits, he added.

Jumblatt, a one-time ally of Hezbollah, turned against the group last year and has been among the most ardent callers for disarming it.

Mahmoud Komati, the deputy leader of Hezbollah's political bureau, promptly denied Jumblatt's allegations, telling Al-Jazeera that all these accusations are part of the conspiracy against the resistance.

The Hezbollah-led opposition in Lebanon has been locked in a bitter struggle with the U.S-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora.Despite his anti-Syrian stance, Saniora recently conceded that not one single case of arms smuggling across the border with Syria has been recorded.

The opposition has been staging protests and an open ended sit-in since Dec. 1 to try and force Saniora to resign after he rejected its call for a national unity government that would give it a veto-wielding share in Cabinet

U.S., U.K., France pushing for UN cmte. to examine Lebanon arms smugglingThe United States, Great Britain, and France are pushing for the formation of a special United Nations expert committee to examine claims of ongoing weapons smuggling through the Syria-Lebanon border.

The initiative is part of a draft presidential statement that has already been circulated among UN Security Council members, and will be discussed beginning Monday.

According to sources at the UN headquarters, the initiative includes a proposal for the committee to tour the Syrian-Lebanon border. The committee will be asked to make recommendations regarding how to effectively prevent the arms smuggling.

Presidential statements, made by country holding the Security Council's rotating presidency, must be agreed upon by all 15 Security Council members. During April, the presidency will be held by Britain's ambassador Sir Emyr Jones-Parry.

The initiative was formed following a Wednesday briefing by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Security Council, in which he summarized his recent visit to the Middle East as well as his meetings with regional leaders/

According to UN sources in New York, Ban warned unequivocally against the ongoing arms smuggling during the closed-doors session. Ban said that he "received information from Israel and other countries" that included evidence of arms smuggling from Syria and Iran to Hezbollah.

Ban added that the "arms smuggling is a blatant violation of Security Council Resolutions 1701 and 1747."

The former resolution served as the basis for the cease-fire that ended the Second Lebanon War, while the latter resolution imposed sanctions on Iran.

The sources said they believe the draft will be met with reservations from Russia and China, which object to the Security Council taking steps against Syria and Iran.

Russia also objected to the Security Council statement condemning Iran for abducting the 15 British sailors and marines.