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Lebanon Still Facing Serious Challenges To Peace

Lebanon Still Facing Serious Challenges To Peace, General Assembly Hears

New York, Sep 24 2008 10:12AM

Lebanon still faces many urgent risks and challenges, including Israeli acts of aggression and the threats posed by terrorist groups, as it tries to establish prosperity and stability, the Middle East country’s President, Michel Sleiman, told the General Assembly today.

Speaking before dozens of world leaders gathered for the annual high-level debate at United Nations Headquarters in New York, General Sleiman said Lebanon was doing all it could to promote peace and stability, including preparing for parliamentary elections slated for next year.

But he told the Assembly that the international community should compel Israel to fully implement Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the armed group Hizbollah, and “stop its serious threats to launch a new war against Lebanon.

“Such threats are acts of aggression that adversely affect the Lebanese State, its public facilities and infrastructure,” he said. “They also adversely affect all components of the civil society and have [a] severe impact on the national economy.”

The President called on Israel to halt “its extensive air breaches of Lebanese sovereignty” and to provide the promised funding to allow Lebanon to remove landmines and cluster bombs left behind by Israel on Lebanese soil.

“Their presence constitutes a direct threat to the civilian population, especially children, and deprives the farmers and workers of cultivating their land.”

General Sleiman also called for the confronting of terrorism in all its forms, noting that Lebanese army and internal security forces have been the victims of several “brutal attacks” in recent years from terrorist groups.

In addition, he stressed the importance of a comprehensive national strategy that promotes national entente and reconciliation between different Lebanese groups and extends the authority of the Lebanese State over all its territory.

The President praised the work of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), particularly the sacrifices its staff have made, and pledged renewed efforts to protect blue helmets from possible terrorist attacks.

Last month the Security Council extended UNIFIL’s mandate by a year through the end of August 2009, stating that a new strategic environment was emerging in southern Lebanon.

UNIFIL is tasked with ensuring that the area between the Blue Line and the Litani River is free of unauthorized weapons, personnel and assets, and it also cooperates with the Lebanese armed forces so they can fulfil their security responsibilities.

In his address, General Sleiman also called on the international community to step up its funding of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Lebanon rejects any resettlement of Palestinian refugees on its territory, he said, adding that the country has limited resources to absorb the hundreds of thousands already living on its territory and that the refugees themselves have the right to return to their homeland and homes.

ENDS

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