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Lebanon: Civilian lives should be priority says UN

Annan’s deputy says saving civilian lives should be priority in Lebanon

In anticipation of tomorrow’s arrival of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, his Lebanon envoy team and other high officials in New York, where they will meet as part of efforts to end the spiralling Middle East violence, Mr. Annan’s deputy said that a permanent solution to the crisis is needed but that saving innocent life is an obvious priority.

“I think the basic point is, saving or losing life is a very simple business,” Mark Malloch Brown, Deputy Secretary-General told reporters at UN Headquarters. “I think we have got to just face the fact: innocent civilians are being killed, and that is just not right. These are not people who are party to this conflict, and the Secretary-General will go on appealing for an end to this violence.”

Mr. Malloch Brown said that in a negotiated longer term settlement, which could include an enhanced international force, the parties and the Security Council would have to deal with the factors asked about by reporters such as the disarming of militias, but this could not be achieved by force.

“I think the Middle East is littered with the results of people believing there are military solutions to political problems in the region, and the region has paid a heavy burden for that assumption in the past,” he said.

In regard to a proposed strengthened international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, he said that “a number of leaders” told him that they prefer a UN mission rather than a multinational force outside the UN, but that would come out in Council negotiations. “I don’t think we’re wedded to a particular version of this,” he added.

In response to other questions, Mr. Malloch Brown explained that the team of envoys on the crisis, headed by Mr. Annan’s Special Advisor, Vijay Nambiar, is on its way back to New York and could not go to Syria even if President Bashar al-Assad agreed to receive Terje Roed-Larsen, one of the team members, which seemed to be a matter of some contention.

He said that briefing the Security Council is now a matter of urgency for both the team and for the Secretary-General, who left Brussels this morning after meeting with the European Union Trade Commissioner at the end of a three-week trip to Europe and Africa.

Condoleezza Rice, United States Secretary of State and Javier Solana, European High Commissioner are also converging on UN Headquarters tomorrow, in an effort to consolidate “a common international position” on the crisis, Mr. Malloch Brown said.

“There is no doubt,” he explained, “that the ability of the international community to influence these extremely dangerous events in the region will be enormously helped if everybody is as close to each other as possible in terms of the messages they are delivering to the leaders of the region.”

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