By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent BEIRUT, Oct 15 (Reuters) – Syria is bent on destabilising Lebanon, whose security forces are not yet strong enough to prevent more possible assassination attempts, Lebanese acting Interior Minister Ahmad Fatfat said.

Fatfat told Reuters in an interview on Saturday that he had recently received a message from someone close to the Syrians, telling him and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to "take care". The message had said the Syrians were "more angry than before February 14, 2005", the date of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri’s assassination, Fatfat said.

He did not spell out what had riled Damascus, but tensions have risen in recent weeks amid Syrian criticism of Siniora’s government as unrepresentative and as serving Israel’s interest. Syria denies any involvement in Hariri’s killing or in a subsequent series of assassinations and attacks on Lebanese politicians and journalists hostile to Syria’s role in Lebanon. Fatafat, a Sunni Muslim member of the anti-Syrian Future Movement led by Hariri’s son Saad, said he was sure Syria still had informants in Lebanon, despite its troop pullout last year.
"The (Lebanese) security services are more powerful now, but not enough to control everything," he added.

He said last month’s attempted assassination of a senior Interior Ministry intelligence officer was likely to have been "a political message related to the (Hariri) investigation".

Street protests in Beirut and international pressure forced Damascus to end its 29-year troop presence after Hariri’s death, but relations between the two countries have remained sour.

Asked if Syria sought to destabilise Lebanon, Fatfat said: "Yes…they are doing it so clearly, it is not camouflaged."

Fatfat cited what he said were demands by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a change of government in Beirut.

"He’s the president of another country, what does he have to do with it?" Fatfat asked, asserting that Syria still refused to open diplomatic relations or demarcate its border with Lebanon.

"We are not looking for a change of regime in Syria, it is not our business," the soft-spoken minister said. "Our business is to push Syria to accept Lebanon as a country, not more."

Fatfat said the Internal Security Forces (ISF), which are controlled by his ministry, had expanded its tasks since the Lebanese army took on new roles after a truce halted Israel’s 34-day war with Hizbollah guerrillas on Aug. 14.

Thousands of troops are newly deployed in Hizbollah’s strongholds in south Lebanon and along the border with Syria.

Fatfat said the ISF now had 24,000 men, an increase of 45 percent in the past 18 months, but only 11,000 assault rifles. Arab and Western countries were expected to help fill shortfalls in weapons, vehicles and other equipment.

"Until a month ago, 40 of our police stations did not have cars," he said, adding that the United Arab Emirates had since supplied hundreds of cars for the ISF.

Fatfat, appointed temporarily nine months ago, said Syria was angered by progress made by the Western-backed government.

But he made clear that Lebanon, economically intertwined with Syria, would continue to support it in the conflict with Israel until there was an overall Middle East peace settlement.