Friday, April 23, 2010

Presence of armed militias threaten recent progress in Lebanon, says UN report

22 April 2010 – Despite major strides in strengthening Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the presence of armed militias continues to pose a threat to the country and the region, warns a new United Nations report.
“The existence of armed groups outside Government control is a fundamental anomaly that stands against the democratic aspirations of Lebanon and threatens domestic peace. It is also an obstacle to the prosperity and welfare that the Lebanese people deserve,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in his latest report to the Security Council on the implementation of resolution 1559.

Adopted by the Council in 2004 amid concern about high tensions within Lebanon, the resolution calls for free and fair elections, an end to foreign interference and the disbanding of all militias.

“Militias defying the control of the legitimate government are incompatible with the restoration and full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of the country,” Mr. Ban says.

He adds that the maintenance of Hizbollah’s independent paramilitary capacity continues to be central to the political debate in Lebanon and the ongoing process of post-civil war reconciliation, and poses a key challenge to the safety of Lebanese civilians and to the authority of the Government.

The Secretary-General calls on Hizbollah’s leaders to complete the transformation of the group into a solely Lebanese political party, consistent with previous agreements.

There is also growing alarm, Mr. Ban notes, at the serious allegations of major arms transfers to Lebanon through its land borders.

“I am concerned that such activities have the potential to destabilize the country and could lead to another conflict,” he states, appealing to all parties, inside and outside Lebanon, to immediately halt all efforts to acquire or transfer weapons and build paramilitary capacities outside the State’s authority.

The report also points to important achievements such as the formal parliamentary endorsement of the Government of national unity in December 2009, six months after the parliamentary elections.

“This creates an opportunity to move forward towards the strengthening of Lebanon’s sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and political independence, which stands at the heart of resolution 1559 (2004). It also paves the way to further revitalizing the political institutions of the State.”

Mr. Ban notes that Lebanon is currently witnessing its longest period of domestic stability and “all Lebanese must continue to work together in a spirit of coexistence and democracy to safeguard the achievements they have made since 2004 towards strengthening the sovereignty and independence of their country and its institutions.

“I urge all political leaders to transcend sectarian and individual interests and promote the future and the interests of the nation in good faith,” he writes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

UN envoy voices hope for calm and safe Lebanese municipal elections

13 April 2010 – The top United Nations envoy to Lebanon today stressed the need to ensure a calm and safe atmosphere ahead of the country’s municipal elections, which are slated to be held next month.
Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, discussed the preparations for the forthcoming polls with the country’s Minister of Social Affairs, Salim Sayegh, in the capital, Beirut.

“I trust that this process will take place in a democratic and safe atmosphere free from intimidation,” Mr. Williams said in a statement following the meeting.

He also welcomed the decision taken on 9 March by the last session of the national dialogue, a political reconciliation process in which all political parties agreed to maintain a calm atmosphere in the period leading up to the elections.

The four rounds of the 2010 municipal elections are scheduled to be held every Sunday in May starting in Beirut, followed by the Bekaa region, then south Lebanon and finally in north Lebanon, according to media reports.

Mr. Williams added that he looks forward to further progress by the national dialogue, which will meet again on 15 April, to keep channels of communication open among the difference political sides in the country.

He and Mr. Sayegh also discussed the general situation in Lebanon and in particular the implementation of resolution 1701, the Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizbollah.

The resolution calls for respect for the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, the disarming of all militias operating in Lebanon and an end to arms smuggling in the area.