New Lebanese army chief promoted

A016883313.jpgThe new chief of the Lebanese army, Jean Kahwaji, has been promoted to general in a ceremony attended by his predecessor, President Michel Suleiman.

Gen Kahwaji was appointed to the post at a meeting of the national unity government on Friday evening.

The 54-year-old Maronite Christian had been a brigade commander since 2002.

Many Lebanese regard the army as one of the country’s few neutral institutions, and say it plays an important role in preventing sectarian conflict.

However, it has repeatedly come under attack since Gen Suleiman became president in May, ending months of political division.

On Thursday, an army helicopter was shot down whilst flying over an area of south Lebanon where Hezbollah is known to have a presence.

The Shia Islamist movement described the incident as “tragic”, but did not confirm reports that the attackers were its members.

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