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Lebanon Must Make Progress On Disarming Militias

Lebanon Needs To Make More Progress On Disarming Militias, UN Envoy Says

New York, Oct 30 2008 7:10PM

Lebanon has made “no tangible progress” towards disbanding and disarming militias operating on its territory, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, warning that the continued activities of these groups could undermine the staging of parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.

Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, told the Council that both Lebanese and non-Lebanese armed groups posed a threat to national sovereignty and stability.

Resolution 1559, adopted by the Council in 2004 amid concern about the ongoing tensions within Lebanon, calls for free and fair elections in the Middle East country without interference from foreign groups and also for the disbanding of all militia.

But Mr. Roed-Larsen said that while some “major strides” have been taken in the past six months regarding the resolution – most notably the holding of a free presidential poll in which Michel Suleiman was chosen – many elements have still not been implemented.

“The violence that erupted in Lebanon and spread widely across the country in May of this year served as a shocking illustration of how armed groups outside the control of the Government of Lebanon brought the country to a near state of collapse, and engraved psychological scars on the civilian population,” he said.

The clashes in May, despite the subsequent political accord that led to the holding of presidential elections, “may have prompted, if not accelerated, a process of re-armament.”

The envoy said Hizbollah’s armed component was the most significant militia in the country, and he urged the group to comply with relevant resolutions and transform into a political party proper.

“The organization maintains a massive paramilitary infrastructure separate from the State, including a secure network of communication, which the group itself deems an integral part of its arsenal.

“In May of this year, Hizbollah employed civil disobedience but also elements of these military assets to protect this very structure. These assets, and Hizbollah’s resort to armed action in response to a political decision by the Government, are a direct challenge to the fundamental authority of that Government and its attempts to consolidate its sovereignty."

He added that “the emergence and apparent strengthening of extremist elements and foreign fighters based largely in and around Tripoli” was also a grave concern, and these elements had conducted lethal attacks against Lebanese armed forces.

The disarmament of all militias “should take place through a political process that will lead to the monopoly on the use of force by the Government of Lebanon throughout all of its territory,” he stressed.

But Mr. Roed-Larsen also noted that Lebanon and Syria have recently held high-level talks on Lebanese sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity, and have agreed to establish full diplomatic relations for the first time.

The envoy cautioned, however, that the Syrian-Lebanese border remains porous and easily penetrated, smuggling activities are ongoing and militia groups are allowed to straddle the border.

In addition, he said Israeli aircraft continue to violate Lebanese airspace by conducting over-flights, which he said must end.


ENDS

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