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Noting progress in Lebanon, Security Council warns of threats and challenges

Noting progress in Lebanon, Security Council warns of threats and challenges

Welcoming the progress so far in implementing and monitoring the cessation of hostilities in southern Lebanon, the Security Council today voiced concern at reports of illegal movements of arms into the country, Israeli violations of Lebanese air space and the continuing presence of “very high numbers of unexploded ordnance” in the affected area.

In a presidential statement, the 15-member Council also reiterated its “full support for the legitimate and democratically-elected Government of Lebanon,” urged all parties to pay “full respect for the democratic institutions of the country in conformity with the constitution” and condemned any attempt to destabilize the State.

Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr al-Thani, Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, read out the statement, which follows a letter earlier this month from Secretary-General Kofi Annan detailing the latest work of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Noting the “important progress” being made towards resolution 1701, which ended the conflict between the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Hizbollah earlier this year, the presidential statement commended the Lebanese Government for the work it has done to extend its authority throughout the territory, especially in the south, through the deployment of members of its armed forces.

It welcomed the work of UNIFIL, which now has more than 10,000 troops deployed in southern Lebanon, monitoring the Blue Line of Israeli withdrawal, and called for continued international support to the mission.

Observing there was “deep concern” at ongoing Israeli overflights of Lebanese air space, Sheikh Hamad said members were calling on all parties to respect the cessation of hostilities and the Blue Line and to avoid any acts of provocation.

The Council said it was also concerned about reports, so far unverified, that there have been illegal movements of arms into Lebanon, a violation of resolution 1701. But it welcomed the Lebanese Government’s initial steps to prevent such movements.

The continuing presence of unexploded ordnance, including cluster bombs, in southern Lebanon remains a serious problem, Sheikh Hamad said, causing death or injury to dozens of civilians and several de-miners.

The Council “reaffirms the urgent needs for the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers,” the presidential statement said, adding that members encourage efforts “aimed at settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel” as well.

The recent appointment by Mr. Annan of a senior cartographer to “review relevant material and develop an accurate territorial definition of the Shab’a Farms area” was also welcomed.