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Lebanon: UN Official Condemns Violence

Top UN Political Official Condemns Violence Across Israel/Lebanon Blue Line

The top United Nations political affairs official today condemned the heavy exchange of fire across the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon which, according to the available information, began from the Lebanese side around 3 p.m. and resulted in deaths among both Israeli and Hizbollah forces.

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari was wrapping up his visit to the Middle East today, meeting with UN staff in Israel when the exchanges, which continued through the afternoon, began.

Mr. Gambari called on all parties to cease fire immediately, to respect the Blue Line in its entirety and to exercise maximum restraint, bearing in mind that one violation does not justify another, according to a UN spokesperson.

"Today's violations show once again the importance of the Government of Lebanon extending its control over all its territory and exerting its monopoly on the use of force," the spokesperson said.

Previously, during a visit over the weekend to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Gambari toured Gaza, held meetings with senior Palestinian officials and observed parts of the barrier being built by Israel to separate it from parts of the West Bank.

Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Mr. Gambari cited Gaza withdrawal and the recent agreement on the Rafah Crossing as signs of progress.

He said that more needed to be done, however, on issues such as an airport and sea port in Gaza and in establishing freedom of movement, both between Gaza and the West Bank, and within the West Bank itself.

Mr. Gambari said he hoped Gaza withdrawal will give new impetus to the peace process and promised the United Nations would be working to "use its unique position and authority to help advance the peace process."

He said he intends to brief the Security Council on his Middle East mission next week.

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