Saturday, 30 June 2007

Hizbollah and anti-Hizbollah UAVs land in Paris

Protests over French invite to Hizbollah


From Shirli Sitbon, Paris
Protests have greeted the French Foreign Ministry’s decision to invite representatives of the Lebanese guerrilla movement Hizbollah to a forthcoming summit in Paris.

“Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner decided when he was visiting Lebanon in May to invite officials from all Lebanese groups to help them renew their internal dialogue,” said a foreign-ministry spokesman.

The French insist that the meetings will be entirely informal, and may begin as soon as next Tuesday, when Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is scheduled to visit the French capital.

“The participants will be designated by the 14 heads of the Lebanese parliamentary groups,” added the spokesman.

The Jewish community has vigorously protested against the invitation to Hizbollah, an organisation that Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy had argued before his election was a terrorist group.

“We understand that France wishes to stabilise the political situation in the region,” wrote Richard Prasquier, president of the CRIF, French Jewry’s umbrella body.

“However, we remind you that Hizbollah is a terror group responsible for numerous attacks in Lebanon and in Buenos Aires against the AMIA Jewish community centre.”

Mr Prasquier also told the foreign ministry chief of cabinet Philippe Etienne that Hizbollah was responsible for launching last summer’s war in Lebanon by capturing Israeli soldiers.

Mr Etienne replied that while he understood CRIF’s concerns, France did not intend to legitimise the group through the meeting but merely to launch a constructive dialogue.

IDF UAVs take-off

Hezbollah officials will arrive in Paris just as Israeli UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) take-off from French territory.

As the French diplomats are still preparing the meeting on “strengthening the Lebanese state”, French aircraft industrials have invited their Israeli counterparts to exhibit their latest UAVs and IDF equipment to observe Hezbollah in the Bourget air show, the widest exhibit in the world.

The unveiling of the latest Israeli UAV, Israeli Aircraft Industry’s Heron TP, was a key-moment of the air show.

“The new Heron TP incorporates front end technologies to meet the Israeli Defence Forces needs,” said Itzhak Nissan, IAI’s president & CEO.

“A Max take off weight of 4,650 Kg, a 36 hour flight capacity,” IDF radio correspondent Or Heller read the IAI press release and concluded: “Do the math yourself: It can fly to Iran and back.”

“The Israeli aircraft industry is a leader of the market because the IDF used these UAVs and equipment on the field, it’s battle proven, in Lebanon last summer and in the Palestinian territories. Other countries, like France, only practice on their UAVs on exercises,” Doron Suslik, from the IAI communication department, told the JC.“There is a direct collaboration between the IAI and The IDF. Many of our engineers are IDF officers. This means they know better than anyone how to improve the equipment. That’s why we’re so quick.”

Forth world weapon exporter with sales mounting up to 5 Billion dollars, Israel has pledged to increase furthermore its collaboration with Europe, its third major area of sales after Asia and the US.Israeli Aircraft Industries’ Doron Suslik told the JC new collaboration programs will be launched at the Paris air show and that IAI is examining the purchase of a European company to strengthen its position in Europe.

“Our goal is to lead technologically,” added Suslik.

While some speak of political pressures against European companies that collaborate with Israeli ones and Israeli companies forced to disguise themselves, figures seem to comfort the IAI.

“Believe me, we know what political pressures are, but you can evaluate their final effect by examining the market. The facts are there: dozens of prestigious clients from up to 90 countries are proud to work with us.”

Dan Arkin the media contact at the Israeli pavilion observed that European and American industrials were not the only ones to show interest in the Israeli exhibit.

“We’ve obviously had visitors from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel.”“In the aircraft industry as everywhere, the market is global.”

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