Lebanon: persistence of armed groups mars general progress, Ban says

1 May 2009

While the political stability of Lebanon has continued to “improve markedly,” the ongoing armed posture of Hizbollah and Palestinian militia groups hampers Government control of the country, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a report released today.

While the political stability of Lebanon has continued to “improve markedly,” the ongoing armed posture of Hizbollah and Palestinian militia groups hampers Government control of the country, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a report released today.

“The general improvement of the situation in the country, combined with reconciliation efforts in the region, creates a potential momentum to strengthen the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon and Government control throughout the country,” Mr. Ban writes in the report, which focuses on the implementation of resolution 1559.

He voices concern, however, at occasional security incidents, which he says highlights the proliferation of weapons and armed groups that continue to operate in the Middle East country, in violation of the resolution.

Adopted by the Security Council in 2004 amid concern about high tensions within Lebanon, resolution 1559 calls for free and fair elections, an end to foreign interference and the disbanding of all militias.

“Hizbollah’s maintenance of a paramilitary capacity poses a key challenge to the Government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force,” Mr Ban states, adding that recent clandestine activities by the militia beyond Lebanese territory also pose a threat to regional peace and stability.

He calls on Hizbollah to cease any militant activities outside Lebanon and to complete its transformation into a solely Lebanese political party, consistent with the requirements of the Taif Agreement that ended the civil war of the 1980’s.

“Regional parties, particularly those that maintain close ties with Hizbollah, must encourage it in the same direction,” Mr. Ban adds.

He also calls on the Lebanese authorities to take measures to dismantle the paramilitary infrastructure, outside refugee camps, of the Damascus-headquartered Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifadah, saying that Syria has a responsibility to aid the Lebanese authorities in those efforts.

Overall, the disarming and disbanding of militias should be achieved through an inclusive political dialogue that addresses the political interests of all Lebanese, and that ultimately confirms the sole political and military authority of the Government of Lebanon, he affirms.

Regarding parliamentary elections scheduled for next month, the Secretary-General says that he is glad that the Lebanese leaders have committed themselves to free and fair elections devoid of violence and inflammatory rhetoric.

“On 7 June, the Lebanese will have a unique opportunity to express their genuine commitment to democracy,” he said, voicing his hope that an atmosphere conducive to peaceful elections will prevail through the election period and beyond.

Noting the approaching 4th anniversary of the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, Mr. Ban praises President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and President Michel Suleiman of Lebanon for their leadership in re-establishing diplomatic relations.

“I hope that this achievement heralds an era of renewed cooperation between the two countries in mutual respect for their sovereignty and political independence,” he says, adding that he looks forward to a successful outcome of current discussions on border issues as well.

 

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Lebanon needs to make more progress on disarming militias, UN envoy says

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.