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UN Delegation Speaks Of Mixed Feelings

UN Delegation Speaks Of Mixed Feelings After Ending Its Mission To Lebanon And Israel

Concluding its regional diplomacy today by meeting Israel’s Prime Minister, a high-level United Nations delegation that also met Lebanese leaders at the weekend said there were reasons for both optimism and pessimism after the past few days of talks, namely because the UN-brokered cessation of hostilities has so far held but also because there still exists a worrying power vacuum in southern Lebanon.

The delegation, which is led by Vijay Nambiar, Special Political Adviser to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, arrived in Israel on Sunday night and met today with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem to discuss all aspects of the UN-backed resolution that led to last week’s cessation of hostilities with Hizbollah. Yesterday, the delegation, which also includes Terje Roed-Larsen, held talks with Israel's Foreign Minister.

“The mission has reasons for optimism and reasons for pessimism as we conclude our mission here. Our optimism is predominately grounded on the fact that, by and large, the ceasefire so far has been honoured,” Mr. Roed-Larsen told reporters before the delegation leaves Israel for Europe to brief the Secretary-General on the detailῳ of its meetings.

“The reason for pessimism is that until there is a capable and fully deployed Lebanese force along the borders, and in Southern Lebanon, and until there is implemented a full reconfiguration and deployment of an international force there will – up to a point, and I emphasize – remain a security vacuum in Lebanon.”

Mr. Roed-Larsen also said that the issue of the abducted Israeli soldiers had been raised by the delegation during all its meetings, as also had the issue of Israel lifting the embargo on Beirut’s airport and latterly the full blockade.

Mr. Nambiar told the reporters that there had also been “considerable discussions” on the question of enhancing the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which currently stands at 2,000 strong, but which resolution 1701 calls to be increased to a maximum of 15,000 personnel.

“We are hoping that in the course of the coming days, particularly at the forthcoming meeting in Brussels of the European Union (EU) that there will be some concrete indications of enhanced offerings from the European countries for this force,” he said.

The Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1701 on 11 August, in which it called for an immediate cessation of hostilities – which went into effect on 14 August local time, the deployment of Lebanese troops, the significantly expanded UN peacekeeping presence across southern Lebanon as well as the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the area.


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