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Germany turns over third patrol boat to Lebanese Navy.

Byline: Eugene Yukin

Summary: A festive reception aboard a German warship was held at Beirut Port on Monday on the occasion of the handover of a German patrol boat to the Lebanese Navy. The craft, the Tabarja, is the third patrol boat that Germany has donated to Lebanon since 2007.

BEIRUT: A festive reception aboard a German warship was held at Beirut Port on Monday on the occasion of the handover of a German patrol boat to the Lebanese Navy. The craft, the Tabarja, is the third patrol boat that Germany has donated to Lebanon since 2007.

The reception, which was held aboard the German frigate Hessen, was attended by the German and Italian ambassadors and top Lebanese, Italian and German admirals.

Germany's cooperation with the Lebanese Navy began after the summer 2006 war with Israel. "The reason is that we negotiated with the Lebanese government a kind of concept," said Admiral Hans-Joachim Stricker, commander-in-chief of the German fleet.

According to Stricker, cooperation plans were negotiated between the Lebanese and German governments in late 2006. One of the main issues discussed was how to enforce the sovereignty of the Lebanese Armed Forces. "One important question of sovereignty is that you control your own territorial waters and we are supporting this process," added Stricker.

The Tabarja is about 13 years old, Admiral Ali al-Moallem, commander of the Lebanese Navy, estimated. "Generally the life of the ship is 30 years, so it's young," he added.

Once the German boats are handed over they are renamed by the Lebanese Navy. The vessels have been renamed the Naqoura, the Amchit and the Tabarja after coastal villages and towns in Lebanon.

Germany was able to donate the patrol boats due to the decreasing need for them in its own fleet. "We have ... seven ships of this [sort] and we reduced it now to five or four because the requirements are less and this of course gives the opportunity to hand it over," Stricker said.

The German patrol boats are only part of the help that the Lebanese Navy has been receiving since the latest war with Israel. Coastal radar stations, bought in the US and financed by the German Foreign Ministry have also been provided. In addition, training of Lebanese Naval officers has been ongoing since 2006. Some officers travel to Germany to receive their training there, while some get trained by German personnel who are sent to Beirut.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon's (UNIFIL) Maritime Task Force (MTF-UNIFIL), along with the European Maritime Task Force (EUROMARFOR), also assist in the training of Lebanese naval officers.

"We provide them with lectures, workshops and also with practical activities at sea ... so what we are trying to achieve is for them to be able to manage the overall assets they have got, the radar station, the naval units, all together in a coordinated fashion to perform control and interdiction within their own maritime waters," said Admiral Ruggiero Di Biase, commander of the EUROMARFOR Task Force.

While there are no plans for additional German donations at the time, training and the upgrading of the coastal radar stations will continue.

"Maybe there will be one or two more [boats], depending of course on the negotiations between the Lebanese government and the Lebanese navy and my navy," Stricker said.

So far, Germany has been the only European nation to give Lebanon patrol boats. "We are looking around whether there are other nations who can supply Lebanon with more seaworthy ships," Stricker said.

According to Stricker, discussions have been held on with European countries on donating more vessels to the Lebanese Navy. "I know that France has an interest and Italy ... but I cannot say to you they will give a ship ... It's not sure yet."

Until the Lebanese Navy is fully able to efficiently control the country's territorial waters, it will be receiving assistance from both MTF-UNIFIL and EUROMARFOR, officials at the event said.

The task forces now have about 13 ships patrolling the coasts of Lebanon with the goal of assisting the Lebanese Navy in preventing any unauthorized smuggling of arms and armaments into the country.

"The end state of the mission is when the Lebanese Navy are able on their own to perform all ... sovereign duties within their territorial waters," said Di Biase. "When they have acquired this sort of capability, for us, it's the end state of the mission and we could withdraw."

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Jun 18, 2008
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