UK to train Lebanese troops amid fears of Syria overspill

Beirut

Britain will help train 2,000 Lebanese soldiers this year amid heightened concern that Syria's neighbour will be sucked into the country's civil war, the Foreign Secretary has said.

The announcement by William Hague during a two-day visit to Lebanon came amid a tense face-off between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which rebels accuse of assisting Syrian regime troops. The UK also pledged to provide "equipment support" for the Lebanese army, though officials declined to provide details.

Britain is hoping to help shore up stability in Lebanon, where politics are closely interwoven with those across the border in Syria. Since the start of the uprising the situation has become increasingly unstable, with armed clashes and a car bombing that killed a security official in the capital Beirut last year.

The armed forces have so far managed to contain any large-scale conflagration, but there are threats by the FSA to attack targets in Lebanon if Hezbollah does not withdraw its fighters backing President Bashar al-Assad. An FSA spokesman said that rebels had struck a Hezbollah base in their heartland of the Hermel, but the claims could not be corroborated.

Britain said it would earmark £11.5m of humanitarian funds it has pledged towards providing relief in Lebanon, taking the total it has provided to the country's refugees to £19.5m. "The situation in Syria remains of enormous concern. The appalling humanitarian crisis, the loss of life and the threat to regional security cannot be ignored or underestimated," Mr Hague said before a meeting with the Lebanese Army Commander, General Jean Kahwaji.

"The UK recognises in particular the critical role played by the Lebanese Armed Forces in maintaining stability. That is why we are increasing our training assistance package." The army is understood to have put forward a plan detailing areas in which it needs support.

In addition to its activities in Syria, Hezbollah – the political wing of which dominates the Lebanese government – is also under the spotlight for allegedly targeting Israeli tourists in attacks overseas.

Mr Hague said he had discussed the organisation's alleged role in a bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last year with the country's Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Sleiman. Two suspects are believed to be in hiding in Lebanon.

The FSA has threatened to attack targets in Lebanon if Hezbollah does not withdraw its fighters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Recruitment Genius: Invoicing Clerk

£14500 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are contractors to...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Administrator / Marketing Assistant

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of packag...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales - OTE £30,000

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a rapidly expanding offi...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy