UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging Syria and Iran to support the transformation of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group from an armed militia to a political party, a UN envoy said on Thursday.
Terje Roed-Larsen said Ban is very concerned that clashes last spring, which saw Hezbollah gunmen and Shiite allies defeat Sunni groups backing the pro-Western government, “may have prompted, if not accelerated, a process of rearmament in Lebanon.”
Roed-Larsen is Ban’s envoy dealing with implementation of a 2004 Security Council resolution that demanded the disarmament and disbanding of all militias and the extension of Lebanese government authority throughout the country.
Briefing the council on Ban’s latest report, he highlighted “major strides” in the last six months — the election of a Lebanese president, plans for parliament elections, and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria.
But he said there was “no tangible progress towards the disbanding and disarming of militias.”
Roed-Larsen said the most significant Lebanese militia “is the armed component of Hezbollah” which 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.”
Lebanon tried to ban the fiber-optic communication system but reversed its decision after Hezbollah’s fighters and allies overran parts of Beirut and other areas in May, killing dozens in scenes reminiscent of Lebanon’s 1975 to 1990 civil war.
Roed-Larsen said the communications network and Hezbollah’s willingness to resort to armed action “are a direct challenge to the fundamental authority of that government and its attempts to consolidate its sovereignty.”