Lebanon Shocked at Hizbullah Telecom Network: WikiLeaks

Lebanon warned "Iran telecom" was taking over the country after uncovering a secret communications network used by Hizbullah two years ago, a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks showed on Monday.

The Beirut government was shocked at the discovery in April 2008 of the extensive communications system used by the powerful Shiite party, which receives military and financial support from Iran, according to the cable.

Lebanon passed on information about the fibre optics network -- allegedly financed by Tehran -- to the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy was "stunned" by the discovery, according to the correspondence revealed in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Marwan Hamadeh, the Lebanese minister of communications, warned the U.S. charge d'affaires of the risks after Hizbullah indicated it would see any action against the telecoms network as "equal to an Israeli act of aggression," said the cable.

According to the correspondence, the minister highlighted "the system as a strategic victory for Iran, since it creates an important Iranian outpost in Lebanon, bypassing Syria.

"He sees the value for the Iranians as strategic, rather than technical or economic."

But for Hizbullah it was "the final step in creating a nation state," according to the cable.

"Hizbullah now has an army and weapons; a television station; an education system; hospitals; social services; a financial system; and a telecommunications system."

Hamadeh described the U.S. cable quoting him as "a story full of slanders and fabrications" and declined to comment further, according to the Guardian, citing Lebanese media.(AFP)