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Shots Fired At UN Verification Group In Lebanon


Annan Deplores Shots Fired At UN Verification Group In Lebanon, Sends In Electoral Team

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan deplored attempts today to restrict the freedom of movement of the UN mission that is in Lebanon to verify the withdrawal of Syrian forces and, calling for late May elections to be held on time, he also sent two UN electoral experts to help with preparations.

A UN spokesman said the Secretary-General "was gravely concerned" to learn that members of the UN verification mission, currently in Lebanon to verify the full withdrawal of Syrian troops, military assets and intelligence apparatus, were denied freedom of movement as Palestinian armed elements fired warning shots in the air when they were inspecting sites in the Beka'a Valley.

Mr. Annan called on the Government of Lebanon to make sure the members of the mission were safe at all times and expected the mission to enjoy full and unconditional freedom of movement throughout the country, Stephane Dujarric said at the daily news briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.

All parties were expected to implement Security Council resolution 1559, which governs the Syrian withdrawal, Mr. Dujarric said, adding that 1559 also urged the Lebanese Government to extend its exclusive authority over the whole country.

Mr. Dujarric said three UN mission members, along with their interpreter and some Lebanese officials, were going to the Beka'a Valley camp on a tip that a Syrian presence might be found there and later said the shots were a warning. The mission would include all such incidents in its report, he added.

Meanwhile, the electoral team comprised Carina Perelli, Director of the UN Electoral Assistance Division, and Scott Smith of her staff and they were to remain in Lebanon for about two weeks, he said.

The two would help prepare upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for 29 May, and assist in arranging the coordination of international observers.

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