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Free, Fair Pres Elections Vital To Lebanon Future

Free and fair presidential elections vital to Lebanon's future - Ban Ki-moon

Security conditions and political stalemate are combining to create a "climate of ongoing crisis" in Lebanon, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in a new report, emphasizing the need to hold free and fair presidential elections next month without any foreign interference.

"There must not be a constitutional void at the level of the presidency, nor two rival governments," Mr. Ban warns in his latest report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, adding that political dialogue must enable the election of a new president before the constitutional deadline of 24 November.

He notes that, for the first time since the end of the country's brutal civil war, the Lebanese people have the opportunity to conduct free and fair presidential elections, "according to Lebanese constitutional rules and without any foreign interference."

"Such an election would signify a major milestone on the road towards the full re-assertion by Lebanon of its sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence, as is the goal of resolution 1559" which was adopted by the Security Council in 2004.

Mr. Ban also expresses his concern at signs that most political parties in Lebanon are apparently preparing for the possible further deterioration of the situation by rearming in contravention to resolution 1559, which calls for their disbandment and disarmament.

Repeating his call on all Lebanese parties to immediately halt all efforts to re-arm and engage in weapons training, he stresses that a return to political dialogue is "absolutely imperative" and the only way to resolve pressing issues.

The Secretary-General states that security conditions have combined with the political stalemate to create "a climate of enduring crisis," hindering the State's ability to extend control over all of its territory and to ensure there are no weapons outside the Government's control.

He notes the recent challenge posed by the Fatah al-Islam group, calling it "a hostile militia that had engaged in terrorist acts in the country," and commends the Lebanese Government and Armed Forces for successfully weathering "a critical test on the road to a truly free and sovereign Lebanon."

Mr. Ban says that foreign involvement in Lebanon has only worsened the crisis. In that context, he reiterates his expectation "vis-à-vis the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular," adding that he expects to see that country's commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon reflected in "further tangible steps."


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