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Hezbollah telco network courts controversy

Municipality and residents stop Hezbollah private network roll out

Hezbollah telco network courts controversy
Attempts to install private networks are illegal, says Lebanon's telecomms ministry.

Residents and representatives of the municipality of Metn, a town in Lebanon, thwarted alleged attempts by Shiite group Hezbollah to install a private telecommunications network in the town last weekend, according to a report from local newspaper, The Daily Star.

Gaby Semaan, mayor of Tarshish, urged the government to speak out against Hezbollah's alleged bid to install a telecoms network. "Even if they try to install the system in a surprise move like they did on Friday, the residents will confront them again and they will stop them from installing any new network," Semaan was quoted as saying in the report.

It is not the first time that Hezbollah, which claims that its private telecoms network is vital to secure the country against neighbouring Israel, has irked the government.

According to the Daily Star, a government attempt to dismantle Hezbollah's private telecoms network in May 2008 sparked fighting in Beirut between Hezbollah's Shiite supporters and pro-government Sunni groups, during which more than 80 people died.

"[Hezbollah officials] warned us of another May 7 if we stand in their way. But the people of Tarshish won't accept this because the network is simply illegitimate," Semaan said.

Nicolas Sehnaoui, Lebanon's telecommunications minister, described all attempts to install private telecoms networks as illegal. He added that Hezbollah had attempted to use the government's recently installed DSL line in the town as a basis for its private network, the report added.

"It is illegal for any party or a ministry to use the Telecoms Ministry's networks as a base for its own private networks," he said. "They tried to install the telecoms network on the DSL networks that were installed by the Telecommunications Ministry in March," Semaan added.

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