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Israeli President Shimon Peres accused Syria on Tuesday of supplying Scud missiles to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah while publicly talking peace.

“Syria claims it wants peace while at the same time it delivers Scuds to Hezbollah whose only goal is to threaten the state of Israel,” Peres told public radio.

Peres made the comments just hours before flying to Paris, where he is expected to discuss the issue with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

According to Arab media and specialised think-tanks, Syria has been sending some of its arsenal of Scud missiles to Lebanon, an allegation denied by Damascus.

Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai declined to go into details of the alleged Scud shipments but said that “Hezbollah’s firing capacity has significantly improved.”

In February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Lebanon of allowing Hezbollah to develop its stockpile of weapons.

Israel estimates Hezbollah’s arsenal at some 40,000 rockets, a significant rise from the group’s 14,000 rockets in 2006, when the 34-day conflict killed 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

It says the stockpile includes rockets with a range of more than 300 kilometres (116 miles), capable of reaching major Israeli population centres, including Tel Aviv .

Vilnai said that Israel would again conduct military exercises this year to prepare for possible rocket attacks by Hezbollah. AFP

Hezbollah is blacklisted by Washington as a terrorist organisation, although it is part of a Lebanese coalition government formed in November by US- and Saudi-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Israel remains technically at war with Syria and Lebanon.

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