UN chief calls for immediate presidential elections in Lebanon and disarming of Hezbollah

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UN chief calls for immediate presidential elections in Lebanon and disarming of Hezbollah

Post by Admin on Thu Apr 24, 2008 2:24 pm

Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon called Monday for immediate presidential elections in
Lebanon without foreign interference and told Syria and Iran they must
support the disarmament of Hezbollah's well-armed militia.


Ban
highlighted the mounting international concern over Lebanon's failure
to fill the top post, left vacant after pro-Syrian President Emile
Lahoud stepped down last November. He also warned that Lebanon will not
be a fully sovereign, democratic state until Hezbollah is disbanded.


The
secretary-general's six-month report to the U.N. Security Council,
obtained by The Associated Press, focused on implementation of a 2004
resolution that calls for presidential elections under the constitution
and the disbanding of all militias.


"Parliament,
which has not met in more than a year, must be allowed to convene
urgently to fulfill its constitutional duties in order to elect a
president...," Ban said. "A free and fair presidential election,
without foreign interference or influence must take place immediately.
The current situation is no longer sustainable."


Lebanon's
sharply divided parliament has failed to elect Army commander Gen.
Michel Suleiman as a consensus president because Prime Minister Fuad
Saniora's pro-Western, anti-Syrian government and pro-Syrian opposition
factions led by Hezbollah remain at loggerheads over power-sharing and
the shape of the future Cabinet.


Another
parliament session, meant to elect Suleiman as president, is due on
Tuesday, but there have been 17 postponements since September, and
there is no sign of a breakthrough. One stumbling block is the
opposition's demand for veto power over future government decisions,
which the parliamentary majority strongly rejects.


The
secretary-general said he is concerned that further delay to elect a
president "will complicate the adoption of an electoral law and the
holding of Parliamentary elections on time, in spring 2009."


Ban
urged all concerned states and parties to cooperate urgently with Arab
League Secretary-General Amre Moussa to immediately implement a plan
adopted by Arab foreign ministers in Cairo in January that called for
Suleiman's election, formation of a national unity government and the
adoption of a new electoral law.


In a
report in late October, Ban drew attention to alleged breaches of the
U.N. arms embargo and the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Iran
and Syria both strong backers of Hezbollah across the Lebanon-Syria
border. Both deny any breeches.


The
secretary-general, in a March report, noted that Israel says Hezbollah
is rearming and has an arsenal that includes 10,000 long-range rockets
and 20,000 short-range rockets in southern Lebanon. Ban didn't confirm
Israel's claim, but he reiterated his concern about reported breaches
of the arms embargo and at "the threats of open war against Israel" by
Hrezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.


In
Monday's report, the secretary-general said, "Hezbollah's maintenance
of a paramilitary capacity poses a key challenge to the government's
monopoly on the legitimate use of force."

"It
is high time, 18 years after the end of the civil war, 8 years after
the Israeli withdrawal, 3 years after the withdrawal of the Syrian
troops, and 1 1/2 years after the war between Israel and Hezbollah, for
all parties concerned, inside and outside of Lebanon, to set aside this
remaining vestige of the past," he said.


He
reiterated that disarming and disbanding all Lebanese and non-Lebanese
militias should be done through a political dialogue that addresses the
political and economic interests of all Lebanese and he called for a
renewed commitment to the disarmament of militias, including Hezbollah,
to fulfill the terms of the 2004 resolution.


"In
this context, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of
Iran, which maintain close ties with the party, bear a significant
responsibility in supporting such a process, for the sake of both
Lebanon's and the wider region's security, stability and welfare," Ban
said.


He
also urged Syria and Lebanon to establish full diplomatic relations and
mark their border, including the disputed Chebaa Farms area, which
"would promote the normalization of relations between the two countries
and constitute significant steps to secure peace and stability in the
region."


Chebaa
Farms was captured by Israel when its forces seized Syria's Golan
Heights in the 1967 Middle East war. The U.N. determined that the area
is Syrian, and that Syria and Israel should negotiate its fate. But
Lebanon claims the Chebaa Farms a claim backed by Syria and
Hezbollah continues to fight over the disputed land, arguing that
Israel's occupation justifies its "resistance."



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