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Stability In S Lebanon Threatened Despite Progress

Stability in southern Lebanon threatened, despite recent progress - Ban Ki-moon

4 March 2008 - Although southern Lebanon is relatively stable at present, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expresses deep concern over the effects of the ongoing political crisis, arms smuggling and Israeli overflights there in a new report on compliance with the Security Council decision that helped end fighting between Israel and Hizbollah in 2006.

"I am pleased to report that both the Governments of Lebanon and Israel express continued commitment to the implementation of resolution 1701," Mr. Ban says in the report on the decision, which called for renewed respect for the Blue Line separating Israeli and Lebanese forces, the disarming of militias and an end to arms smuggling, among other measures.

"Only the enduring commitment of the parties to all the provisions of the resolution, without selectivity, will create the required basis for a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution," he adds in the report, which covers the period since the end of October last year.

He states that the expanded activities of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces have contributed a new strategic environment, acknowledged by Israel, in the area south of the Litani River.

At the same time, however, Lebanon has remained in the grip of an intense political crisis which has shut down the work of key State institutions, he says, with continuing assassinations heightening tensions throughout the country.

Though Mr. Ban affirms that UNIFIL has found no evidence of new military infrastructure in its area of operations, rocket firings against Israel and attacks against the mission "indicate that there are still hostile elements and unauthorized arms."

In addition, Hizbollah has admitted, on several occasions, replenishing its military capacity since the 2006 war, indicating that the Syrian border remained vulnerable to arms smuggling, he adds.

For that reason, he says he intends to dispatch a team to Lebanon to look at the implementation of the recommendations of the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team: "It is clear that significant challenges remain to be addressed in effective border management."

The report also highlights the Secretary-General's concern at Israel's continuing air violations, and the limited data it has provided for cluster bomb clearance.

He also expresses great concern at the threats of open war against Israel, made by the Secretary-General of Hizbollah on both 14 and 22 February. "This goes against the spirit and intensions of resolution 1701 (2006), which aims to achieve a permanent ceasefire."

ENDS

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