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Lebanon Faces Most Serious Crisis Since Civil War

Lebanon faces most serious crisis since civil war - UN envoy

8 May 2008 - The stalled political process in Lebanon, combined with the current violence on the streets and the "defiant manoeuvres of militias," is leaving the country struggling to function as a sovereign, democratic State, United Nations Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen told the Security Council today.

"The riots that started yesterday in Lebanon show tragically that the country today confronts challenges of a magnitude unseen since the end of the civil war," said Mr. Roed-Larsen.

"The electoral void combined with the stalled functions of Parliament and the defiant manoeuvres of militias are all threats to Lebanon's ability to function as a sovereign, democratic and independent State," he added, speaking as the Secretary-General's Special Envoy on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559.

Adopted by the Council in 2004, resolution 1559 calls for free and fair presidential elections in Lebanon without any foreign interference or influence, and for the disbandment of all militia groups operating in the country. Mr. Larsen said that he regretted he had no progress to report on the resolution over the past six months.

Speaking later to reporters, Mr. Larsen said that the Secretary-General "calls for all parties now to show restraint, to find a solution to the current impasse and the current violence, through peaceful dialogue," and added that the Security Council had unanimously called for "calm and restraint."

Since last November the country has been deadlocked on the election of a new president, with the position remaining vacant. Yesterday and today pro- and anti-government militias have been battling on the streets of Beirut. Mr. Roed-Larsen commented that, "Lebanon for a long time now - several months and more - has been on a slippery slope of violence and turmoil," adding that "it is in the deep interest not only of the Lebanese but of the whole region and beyond to now stabilize the situation in Lebanon."

While calling for the disarming of all militias in the country, the UN Envoy said that Hizbullah, the most significant Lebanese militia, "maintains a massive para-military infrastructure separate from the State." This had "an adverse effect" on the Government's efforts to impose law and order and was "a threat to regional peace and security."

The Secretary-General, said Mr. Roed-Larsen, calls on all parties with ties to Hizbullah, "in particular Syria and Iran, to support its transformation into a solely political party."

The Special Envoy urged a return to political dialogue among the Lebanese parties, stressing that this was "the only way to resolve all outstanding issues."

ENDS

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