With an eye to Lebanon's upcoming elections, the United Nations Security Council this evening passed a resolution - by the razor-thin margin of nine in favour with six abstentions - declaring support for polling free of outside influence and calling for the withdrawal of foreign forces, the disbanding of all militias and the extension of Government control over the entire country.
The measure, which was introduced by France and the United States and garnered the minimum support required for passage, drew opposition from Lebanon's Foreign Minister. Addressing the Council, Mohamad Issa disputed the basis of the text, saying Israel's occupation had prompted a national resistance which was used where and when needed. Lebanon, he asserted, had control over its territory save for parts occupied by Israel. The resolution, he charged, distorted the friendly relations between Lebanon and Syria and represented an unprecedented interference in the internal affairs of a Member State.
Two veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council - China and Russia - joined four rotating members - Algeria, Brazil, Pakistan and the Philippines - in abstaining during their voting. In explaining their decision, several representatives of these countries said the resolution touched on the internal affairs of a State in contravention to the UN Charter.
In its text, the Council declared "support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon's upcoming presidential election conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence."
It also called on all parties concerned to work for "the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon."
Hailing the text's adoption, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière said the resolution, far from constituting interference in Lebanon's affairs, was aimed at preventing it. If the Council did not act, it would be sanctioning interference in the internal affairs of another State, he said.
US Ambassador John Danforth said the continued presence of armed Hizbollah militia elements, as well as the presence of the Syrian military and Iranian forces in Lebanon, hindered the Government's ability to extend its authority over the entire territory. "It is wrong for Syria to continue to maintain its forces in Lebanon," he said, "and it would be very wrong of Syria to continue to interfere in the presidential electoral process in Lebanon."