Sun, Aug 05, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Arms flow to Lebanon concerns UN

EMBARGO BREACHES The Security Council responded to a report that said the country should establish a force to put an end to weapons smuggling from Syria


The UN Security Council expressed strong concern on Friday over violations of the arms embargo on Lebanon's border with Syria.

"The Security Council ... ex-presses grave concern at persistent reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syria border," the council said in a non-binding presidential statement.

The council also said it was concerned about the possible re-arming of non-Lebanese and Lebanese groups and militias and declared that "there should be no sale or supplies of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by the government."

The council pointed to a recent statement by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah claiming it had retained the military capacity to strike any part of Israel.

The council statement was also a response to a June report by a UN-appointed team that said security along the Lebanon-Syria border is insufficient to prevent arms smuggling and Lebanon should quickly establish a mobile force to intercept any flow of weapons.

The council also welcomed the team's recommendations and said that it looked forward to the implementation of the measures.

It underlined the shared responsibility of Syria and Lebanon for controlling the border, noted Syria's statement that it has taken measures and called "for enhanced cross-border cooperation to secure the Syrian-Lebanese border."

The council also said that it had received information from the Lebanese government on "the dangerous activities of armed elements and groups, in particular PFLP-GC [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command] and Fatah Intifada."

It called on Syria to further reinforce its control measures at the border.

The council also urged Hezbollah and Israel to observe and protect the conditions of the ceasefire that ended last summer's 34-day war between the Jewish state and the militant group.

It called on "all parties to refrain from statements and activities that could jeopardize the cessation of hostilities."

The council urged Hezbollah to return two Israeli soldiers that it is holding and voiced its "deep concern" over the increase in Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace.

The Security Council's statement came as Lebanese forces continued last week fierce fights with Islamic militants inside the country.

Meanwhile the UN announced it was inviting members to nominate candidates to join the special tribunal being set up to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who along with 22 others was killed by a massive explosion targetting his car.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had sent a letter inviting member states to submit names of candidates to be judges on the tribunal by Sept. 24.

Last month, Ban asked the Dutch government to host the international court for the Hariri case.

Asked what measures his government was prepared to take to secure the border, Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari said that 12 high-level meetings had been held with Lebanon since last summer to discuss a clutch of border issues.

"Any issue related to the border between any two states is a bilateral issue," he said.

"I wouldn't see Syria putting its nose in demarcating the lines between Canada and the United States," he said.

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