Saturday, May 23, 2009

Israel hands over cluster bomb maps to UN force in Lebanon

13 May 2009 –The Israeli Defence Forces have handed over to the United Nations data and maps on the cluster munitions it fired over southern Lebanon during the 2006 conflict between the two countries. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) received the technical strike data and related maps yesterday, and is currently examining and assessing the information, Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for the world body, told reporters in New York.

"UNIFIL will be handing over the data to the Lebanese Armed Forces," he added.

According to the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre of South Lebanon, the area was blanketed by cluster munitions during the month-long conflict in the summer of 2006.

An estimated 40 square kilometres of land became contaminated with hundreds of thousands of unexploded cluster munitions, which have killed at least 20 people and maimed nearly 200 others so far.

Cluster munitions have been cleared from the surface of about half of South Lebanon's known contaminated land, and about 150,000 munitions have been found and destroyed.

Mr. Haq noted that the UN has in the past repeatedly called on Israel to provide the technical strike data on the number, type and location of munitions fired in the conflict to help speed up the clearance operations and prevent casualties among civilians and mine-clearance experts.


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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative, During Security Council Consultations on Lebanon and Resolution 1559, May 7, 2009

Thank you, Mr. President. Let me also thank the Secretary-General for his report and Mr. Larsen for his briefing this morning.

Our discussion today of Security Council Resolution 1559 occurs one year to the day since a strike engineered by Hizballah erupted into violence and resulted in Hizballah's takeover of West Beirut—a show of force that only underscores the need to fully implement Resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701.

The events a year ago today speak eloquently to the ongoing dangers that armed militias pose to Lebanon's liberty and independence. Before, during and after the 2005 Cedar Revolution, we have all witnessed the Lebanese people's determination to live in a free, sovereign, and independent state.

Lebanon and Syria should be commended for taking significant steps towards establishing normal relations. When the Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon arrives in Beirut, the two countries' exchange of ambassadors will be complete—that is a noteworthy achievement.

Activating the joint border commission will be another step forward. We hope that Syria will soon name its delegates to this body so that both nations can begin meaningful efforts to delineate their porous common border, as called for in Resolution 1680.

Doing so is a crucial component of the broader effort to stem cross-border smuggling and end what the Secretary-General calls the "continuing potential for breaches of the arms embargo." Such breaches make it easier for Hizballah to rearm. They also make it easier to get dangerous weapons to such militias as the PFLP-GC—which, as the Secretary General's report notes, allegedly fired rockets at Israel from Lebanon during the recent Gaza conflict.

Given this progress in key areas, it may be tempting to think that Resolution 1559 is coming toward the end of its usefulness. This would be a grave mistake.

The Secretary-General's report does suggest a thaw in diplomatic tensions between Syria and Lebanon and some welcome improvement in Lebanon's political and security situation. But it also finds "no tangible progress towards the disbanding and disarming of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, as called for by the Taif Agreement and Resolution 1559."

Indeed, Hizballah has now admitted supporting militants in Egypt and exhorting the Egyptian military to defy its political leaders. These actions are further reminders that Hizballah is a threat not only to Lebanon but to the region at large. And so we join the Secretary-General in condemning Hizballah's "unwarranted interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state."

Mr. President, the United States strongly believes that the people of Lebanon must be able to choose their own representatives in open and fair elections—without the specter of violence, the intimidation of militias, and the pressure of outside influence. As the Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton, noted recently in Beirut, the Lebanese "have a right to [their] own future."

This Council has made it clear—in successive Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701—that the only legitimate armed forces in Lebanon are those of the Lebanese government. The United States continues to support Lebanon's legitimate state institutions, including providing the Lebanese Armed Forces with the training and equipment they need to protect Lebanon and its citizens and implement the resolutions of this Council.

And so we join with the Secretary-General in calling upon Hizballah to disarm and to transform itself into a purely political party. We also call on all other militant groups in Lebanon to disarm. Let me be clear: we see no distinction between these groups' so-called political and military wings. Nor will we engage with them until they completely disarm—whatever their involvement in the Lebanese government.

Similarly, the United States calls for the state sponsors of these armed groups to end their support. We are particularly disturbed by the PFLP-GC and Fatah al-Intifada militias' presence along the Lebanese-Syrian border—some sections of which, as the Secretary-General has noted, fall under their illegal de facto control.

Mr. President, the United States has begun to pursue a course of principled, increased engagement in the region. But the United States will not sacrifice Lebanon's sovereignty, liberty, or independence on the altar of improved U.S. relations with one of Lebanon's neighbors. The United States will never sanction any deal at the expense of a free, sovereign, and independent Lebanon. We will never make any deal that sells out Lebanon and the Lebanese people.

This includes the important work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is a critical and non-negotiable part of the process of ending the era of impunity for political assassinations in Lebanon.

We will continue to call for the full implementation of Resolutions 1559 and 1680 until all directives of both resolutions are met and until the political independence and sovereignty of Lebanon are guaranteed. Finally, we will continue to support voices of peace and moderation. And we will continue to hope that Lebanon will move further along the path of peace and prosperity that all of its sovereign people deserve to walk.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009


Special Envoy Says 7 June Parliamentary Elections New Milestone;

Warns Threat Posed by Armed Militias to Sovereignty 'Cannot Be Overstated'

One year ago, exactly, Lebanon had been taken "to the brink of civil war and back", Terje Roed-Larsen told the Security Council today, but, since then, thanks to an agreement between Lebanese political leaders brokered by the Emir of Qatar, the country's domestic, political and security situation "has improved markedly".

Mr. Roed-Larsen, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), said the violence that had erupted on 7 May 2008 had been one of the "greatest threats to the very foundations of the Lebanese State".  Fortunately, the commitments made in the 21 May 2008 Doha agreement had either been implemented or meaningfully acted upon.  Political divisions had not led to paralysis.  The President had worked tirelessly to forge national unity.  The general improvement of the situation in the country had created a favourable environment for strengthened sovereignty, political independence and Government control throughout the country.

The 7 June parliamentary elections would constitute a milestone in Lebanon's momentous transition since the adoption of resolution 1559 (2004), he said.  The parties must continue to adhere to the Doha Accord, including the commitment to refrain from using weapons to settle internal political disputes.

Reporting on further strides towards the full implementation of resolution 1559 (2004), he said Syria and Lebanon had nearly completed the process leading to full diplomatic relations between the two countries.  The Secretary-General had maintained his efforts to encourage Syria and Lebanon to achieve the full delineation of their common border.  Lebanese members had been named to the Lebanese-Syrian border committee.  The United Nations was looking forward to the appointment by Syria of its delegates to the commitments.  The Secretary-General welcomed the renewed commitment by the Government of Syria to preserve the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Lebanon.

He said diplomatic efforts regarding the issue of the Shab'a Farms had continued.  Israel still occupied the northern part of Ghajar in violation of Lebanon's sovereignty and relevant Council resolutions.  Intrusions into Lebanese airspace by Israeli aircraft continued in high numbers.  Over the last few weeks, the Lebanese authorities had arrested a series of individuals on suspicion of spying for Israel.  If those allegations proved to be true, they would constitute a serious violation of Lebanon's sovereignty.

Over the reporting period, he continued, there had been no tangible progress towards the disbanding and disarming of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.  "The threat that armed groups and militias pose to the sovereignty and stability of the Lebanese State cannot be overstated, as events in May 2008 have demonstrated", he said.  The disarming and disbanding of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias was vital for the complete consolidation of Lebanon as a sovereign and democratic State.  The threats posed by the militias and armed groups created an atmosphere of intimidation in the context of the upcoming parliamentary elections and undermined the stability of the region.  The disarming and disbanding of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias should occur through an inclusive political dialogue that addressed the political interests of all Lebanese people

He said there were alarming reports of a large number of arms in Lebanon.  Hizbullah's leadership had continued to assert that it had acquired more sophisticated military technology.  The United Nations did not have the means to independently verify those reports, but remained concerned by the porous nature of Lebanon's border with Syria and the continuing potential for breaches of the arms embargo.  The Government of Syria had denied any involvement in any illegal transfer of weapons across its border with Lebanon.

He was also concerned by security incidents in and around Palestinian camps, some of which provided safe haven for those who sought to escape the authority of the State.  Security coordination and cooperation between Lebanese security agencies and the Palestinian faction had improved and should be further encouraged.  The issue of Palestinian arms outside the 12 official refugee camps had been discussed again within the National Dialogue, which had been established to develop a national defence strategy.

He said the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and Fatah Al-Intifada maintained illegal military installations along the Lebanese-Syrian border.  Although in 2006 it had been agreed in the National Dialogue that those Palestinian armed positions had to be dismantled within six months, no progress had been made.  Since those two groups were both headquartered in Damascus, cooperation between the Governments of Syria and Lebanon would be important to address that matter in the best interest of regional stability.

Hizbullah continued to maintain a significant paramilitary capacity and infrastructure separate from the State, he said, something which directly challenged the Lebanese State's sovereignty and threatened regional stability.  Over the last few weeks, there had been growing concern that Hizbullah had engaged in clandestine and illegal militant activities beyond Lebanese territory.  On 8 April, Egypt's General Prosecutor announced that 49 people had been arrested for allegedly being part of a cell assigned by Hizbullah "to plan and carry out hostile operations on Egyptian soil".  Mr. Roed-Larsen said that on 26 April he had met with Egypt's President and Foreign Minister, who shared with him preliminary elements of the investigation into the cell.

In a recent correspondence, Egypt's Government told the Secretary-General that, in 2008, a cell led by a Lebanese member of Hizbullah was uncovered, he said.  In a televised speech on 29 April, the Secretary-General of Hizbullah, Sayed Hassen Nasrallah, rejected the Egyptian authorities' accusations.  The Secretary-General had expressed concern over the Hizbullah leaders' statements and had condemned such unwarranted interference in the domestic affairs of a Member State.  Equally alarming was the fact that Hizbullah had publicly admitted to providing support to Gaza-based militants from Egyptian territory.

Mr. Roed-Larsen reiterated that Hizbullah should cease any militant activities outside of Lebanon and complete its transformation into solely a Lebanese party.  Regional parties, particularly those with close ties to Hizbullah, must encourage Hizbullah to move in that direction.  The National Dialogue had made some progress, but its overall gains had been limited.  All Lebanese leaders must approach the dialogue process in a spirit of cooperation and make every effort to achieve a positive, concrete outcome that would formalize the Government's monopoly over the use of force within Lebanon's boundaries and achieve progress in disarming all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.

He called on all parties inside and outside of Lebanon to halt immediately all efforts to transfer and acquire weapons and to build paramilitary capacities outside State authority.  As the Lebanese Armed Forces lacked adequate military equipment to meet their obligations under relevant Council resolutions, he called on donor countries to continue to help the Forces improve logistical and operational capabilities.  He expressed concern over the occasional security incidents during the reporting period, some of which had led to casualties.  Such incidents highlighted the proliferation of weapons and armed groups operating in Lebanon.

When the Council met, it had before it the ninth semi-annual report of the Secretary-General on implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004) (document S/2009/218).

The meeting started at 10:10 a.m. and adjourned at 10:35 a.m.

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New York, May 6 2009 6:10PM
The United Nations peacekeeping chief today voiced hope that ongoing talks will lead to a quick end to the dispute over Ghajar, a village that straddles the so-called Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel, as he met with officials from the two countries.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Alain Le Roy was attending the monthly tripartite meeting convened by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon with senior officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).

The meeting, held at the UN Position near the Ras Al Naqoura crossing, discussed Security Council resolution 1701, which helped end the war between Israel and Hizbollah in the summer of 2006. That text also called for renewed respect for the Blue Line, the disarming of militias and an end to arms smuggling, among other measures.

Today's discussions centred on recent violations of the Blue Line, as well as the demarcation of the Line through the village of Ghajar.

In his most recent report to the Security Council on resolution 1701, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that rockets fired into Israel from south Lebanon and return fire at the time of the recent crisis in Gaza led to heightened tensions along the Blue Line.

Mr. Ban also said he was pleased that the parties have made strides to visibly mark the Blue Line, encouraging Lebanon and Israel to stay the course and build on existing momentum to curb inadvertent violations and boost confidence.

Mr. Le Roy acknowledged efforts made at the tripartite meeting on the issue of northern Ghajar, in order to achieve a complete withdrawal of the IDF from the area. "I hope that the ongoing discussions on the basis of UNIFIL's proposal of last year will lead to a speedy resolution of this matter," he stated.
May 6 2009 6:10PM

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