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Lebanese Govt must force Hezbollah to disarm: -

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Lebanese Govt must force Hezbollah to disarm: Barak

Reporter: Tony Jones

TONY JONES: Well, as we reported earlier the Israeli Government has rejected a ceasefire plan from
the Australian Government to allow safe passage of Australians out of southern Lebanon. To discuss
this and the latest events in the Middle East I'm joined by Ehud Barak. Mr Barak is widely regarded
as one of Israel's most decorated soldiers and was chief of the Israeli military before entering
politics in 1996. During his career he held many ministerial positions, among them foreign minister
and defence minister. He become prime minister in 1999, a position he held until 2001. During that
time he withdrew Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and entered into peace negotiations with
Syria. Ehud Barak joins us from Tel Aviv. Thanks for being there.

EHUD BARAK, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.

TONY JONES: Can we start by getting your perspective as a former prime minister on why with so many
foreign nationals trapped in Lebanon, Israel is refusing to halt its bombing and allow them safe
passage out of the country.

EHUD BARAK: I don't think there is a safe passage out of the country. The airport is blocked. The
sea ports are blocked. The ground roads are blocked. Beyond that, we are not attacking any place
where foreigners are leaving or should be at present. We are attacking only Hezbollah targets and I
hope no one is there. I think that we cannot afford - once you stop it, you cannot renew it - and
we cannot afford stopping the heating on the Hezbollah, its infrastructure and its rocket launching
systems before all our conditions are met. Namely, the abducted soldiers are released, the
Government of Lebanon deploys its forces to the south and the Hezbollah dismantles from its
militias and rocket launching systems.

TONY JONES: OK. You say that foreigners or places where they are are not being targeted. Of course
seven Canadians were killed only in the last few days. They were tourists visiting a town, living
in a house 50 kilometres south of Beirut. It was a mother, four of her children and an uncle. All
of them were killed by an Israel bomb. So this is happening and Australians in similar conditions
are reporting that bombs are going off around them. Could there be something done to help them
foreigners trapped in the middle of the fighting?

EHUD BARAK: I think in any case that the Government knows of certain individuals living in certain
places and should be moved and they should approach the Israeli authorities and probably some
concrete solution for the concrete issue could be raised. But, basically, only areas that are held
by Hezbollah are attacked and normally you may say if what you have described just happened, of
course, we regret it and I'm sorry for it. But normally and basically it shouldn't happen and every
concrete issue should be dealt with based on its merits.

TONY JONES: But I'm just wondering, are the people of Israel hearing about what is happening in
Lebanon: that thousands of foreigners are trapped there; that warships are being sent there to
evacuate them; that Australian and Canadians and other citizens are caught in areas that are being
bombed by Israel planes? Do Israelis realise this is happening?

EHUD BARAK: Um, I don't think that we are aware of it to the extent that you have described, but we
will become aware of it. Basically, I think what the international community could easily do is
trying to put pressure on the Lebanese Government, the Syrians in a way, to put an end to it. If
the Lebanese Government will order its armed forces to move to the south, backed by the
international will, I think that it will dramatically reduce the level of violence and probably
stop it.

TONY JONES: But only overnight 12 Lebanese soldiers were killed by an Israel air strike. I mean, I
would imagine they would be afraid to send armed troops to the south for fear that they too would
be caught up in the fighting.

EHUD BARAK: Oh, no. No reason for them to avoid it. We will not hit them. The only place we hit is
sea borne RADAR systems which cooperated with the Hezbollah in arranging shooting missiles towards
our missile boat. So I don't think that it's a place where they were involved with the Hezbollah
directly. I am aware of the fact that when you fight on those kind of large-scale intensive
fighting, there's no way to be fully in full control of every individual of an aircraft or every
single piece of munition. But basically I don't see any reason why the Lebanese Government cannot
order its armed forces to move in a coordinated way to the south to take over the border to push
the Hezbollah out and I believe it could lead very easily to the end of these fire exchanges.

TONY JONES: But even the United States appears to acknowledge the Lebanese military and the
Lebanese Government are too weak on their own to take on the hard core Hezbollah militia in the
south. Do you really believe that Lebanon and Lebanon's army could have disarmed Hezbollah?

EHUD BARAK: Yeah. Until two years ago, the Government was a puppet government of the Syrians and
they did not want to do that. But now there is a weak government, but a democratic one, that wants
to see the Hezbollah dismantled and it's up to the world to back them in a convincing way and tell
them, "We are behind you. Don't be frightened. We will come to your help if necessary to help you
exercise your sovereignty over the whole sovereignty of Lebanon." I believe that if they will feel
the support of the world leadership in their backs, they are capable of doing it. They are clearly
willing to do it.

TONY JONES: But, Ehud Barak, how could they do that when Israel has effectively declared war on
them, has bombed its civilian infrastructure, its international airport in Beirut has been bombed,
sea ports, bridges, communication infrastructure, electrical plants, houses, vehicles on the roads,
have been bombed by the Israelis. It's hard to see that the Lebanese Government would be able to do
anything at all at the present moment. You've declared war on them.

EHUD BARAK: We did not - I repeat - we did not declare war on the Lebanese Government. We declared
war on Hezbollah. I believe that no government on earth would accept the situation that someone
tries to - Hezbollah tries to dictate to us, as well as the Hamas from the other side of the Gaza
Strip. Namely, the first attribute of any legitimate sovereign is the monopoly on the use of
weapons. No one would accept or enable where a political party, which has its Members in the
Parliament, even the Government, has its own militia with weapons and they shoot rockets at will of
the militia, not of the Government, into a neighbouring sovereign. That's no way to accept it. The
primal contract of our Government with our nation, as well as your Government with your public, is
to protect them. If this would have happened in Sydney or Melbourne, I have no doubt what Prime
Minister Howard or his predecessors would have done. I'm talking from experience. I know him very
well.

TONY JONES: Well, let me just put this to you. This is what Lebanon's Prime Minister has said
tonight. He said Israel - and this is the man you want to help you - he said Israel is now a
terrorist country that's committing every day terrorist acts. He's talking about the bombing
campaign that's hitting Lebanese targets, that has killed now a very large number of Lebanese
civilians. Where can this go now?

EHUD BARAK: You know, it is up to him. If the Lebanese Government would start to govern, namely to
exercise this monopoly on the other weapons, and make sure that only its armed forces will be
allowed to shoot over the border and only if there is a reason for this, the whole issue would not
ever have come to the table. The right way to make it stop is to join basically the spirit and the
letter of the G8 resolution or statement. Two days ago in St Petersburg they made it clear what the
world leadership expects that the soldiers will be released - the abducted soldiers, the Government
will send its soldiers to the border with Israel, that the Hezbollah will be removed from the area
and its military activities will be stopped. I can tell you for sure that when the first three of
these four steps happens, the fire exchange will stop on its own.

TONY JONES: OK. Mr Barak, if Syria and Iran are truly behind the arming and the ordering of the
Hezbollah to attack Israel, as Israel claims they are, why are you not attacking Syria and Iran,
rather than the Lebanese Government, which appears helpless to do anything?

EHUD BARAK: I keep telling you, but you for some reason do not want to hear or to heed to it. We
are not attacking the Lebanese Government. We are attacking the Hezbollah. It's true we want the
Lebanese Government, which is a sovereign government, to act. It is true the Syrians are supporting
them logistically and the Iranians are supporting them with munition and some financial support.
That does not create a reason. We do not wish to put the whole region in flames. But, you know, we
want to minimise the parameters of these fires. Not to widen it, as far as possible. In Gaza City,
I hope it will not deteriorate.

TONY JONES: I'm sorry, we're just about out of time and I've got to ask you...

EHUD BARAK: I can tell you...

TONY JONES: Do you believe a UN stabilisation force may be the answer?

EHUD BARAK: I don't think so and clearly not - I thought it was a very bad experience for all of
us. But if as an interim stage, in order to help the Lebanese Government to send its forces to the
south and to collect all of these rockets and demolish them, they will need a small, tight, highly
operational group of units from a strong kind of political will, kind of party, countries in the
world. If this has to be for 90 or 120 days, I would not have excluded it.

TONY JONES: Alright.

EHUD BARAK: Only the temporary - from armies with strong will behind them.

TONY JONES: Ehud Barak, we're about to lose the satellite. We thank you very much for taking the
time to come and talk to us tonight.

EHUD BARAK: I thank you and I hope it will all be over.