Iran building weapons factories in Lebanon and Syria, Israel says
JERUSALEM — Israel is using a visit this week by the United Nations secretarygeneral, Antonio Guterres, to highlight concerns about what it says are Iran’s efforts to produce advanced, precision weapons in Lebanon and Syria.
“Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday at a news conference with Guterres, “and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as war fronts against its declared goal to eradicate Israel.”
Netanyahu asserted that Iran “is building sites to produce precision-guided missiles toward that end in both Syria and in Lebanon.”
He added: “This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the U.N. should not accept.”
Israel’s defense minister, Avidgor Lieberman, also spoke in his meeting with Guterres about Israel’s concerns about factories for precision weapons and what he called Iran’s repeated attempts to smuggle arms into Lebanon.
The assertions are not new, but Israel now appears to want to put them on the international agenda.
Israel’s chief of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, told an audience at a policy conference in Herzliya, Israel, in June that Iran had been working during the past year to set up independent production facilities in Lebanon to manufacture precise weapons, which use advanced technology to guide them to specific targets.
The beneficiary, he said, would be Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite organization, with which Israel fought an inconclusive, month-long war in 2006. Adding that Iran was setting up similar facilities in Yemen, Halevi warned, “We cannot remain indifferent to this and we don’t.”
Israeli leaders also pressed Guterres to prod the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, into fulfilling its mandate to prevent Hezbollah’s weapons buildup.
“I will do everything in my capacity to make sure that UNIFIL fully meets its mandate,” said Guterres, visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories for the first time since taking up the top U.N. post in January. He added that “the idea or the intention or the will to destroy the state of Israel is something totally unacceptable from my perspective.”