Friday, October 17, 2008

UN chief: Hizbullah must be disbanded

From Associated Press:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that Lebanon will not be a fully sovereign state until Hizbullah, and other militia groups are disbanded.

"Hizbullah's maintenance of separate military assets and infrastructure is a fundamental challenge to the government's attempts to consolidate the sovereignty and authority of the Lebanese state," he wrote in a six-month report to the UN Security Council, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

"In addition, several Palestinian militias operate in the country, inside and outside of refugee camps," said the secretary general, adding that they also undermine the stability of the country and the region.

In the report, Ban also said he was encouraged by the positive developments in relations between Lebanon and Syria, but called on the two countries to take further steps to improvesecurity along the border.

"Over the last six months, Lebanon has experienced both the ruinous effects of sectarian violence and hope and optimism," he said in the report.

"I applaud the historical steps that have been taken so far by Presidents Suleiman and Al-Assad," he said. "For the first time since their independence, the two neighboring states are establishing diplomatic relations.

The foreign ministers of Syria and Lebanon signed a document Wednesday formalizing diplomatic ties between the two countries for the first time in their turbulent history.

The signing comes a day after Syrian President Bashar Assad issued a decree establishing diplomatic relations with its smaller neighbor - a long-standing demand of the West and Lebanese politicians opposed to Syria's influence in the country.

The two countries have not had formal diplomatic relations since both gained independence from France in the 1940s in an arrangement that many Lebanese viewed as a result of Syria's refusal to recognize Lebanese sovereignty.

Ban, in his report, said in addition to establishing diplomatic relations, Lebanon and Syria must also take concrete steps to implement other agreements reached during these meetings, including "joint activity to improve security arrangements along that border."

In his April report, Ban highlighted the mounting international concern over Lebanon's failure to fill the presidential post, left vacant after pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud stepped down last November.

In Thursday's report, he said the most significant progress made in the last six months was Lebanon's compliance with requirements for a "free and fair presidential electionaccording to Lebanese constitutional rules."

Ban said Lebanese President Michel Suleiman's election on May 25 "represented a significant step forward," but said "I remain concerned by the political assassinations and explosions that continue to plague Lebanon."

The secretary-general said that clashes in May and violent incidents since then raised concerns "that groups on all sides of the political spectrum may be re-arming."

In the report, Ban called on Lebanese parties to immediately halt all efforts to acquire and build paramilitary capabilities.

He reiterated that disarming and disbanding all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias should be done through a political dialogue "that will lead to the monopoly on the use of force by the government of Lebanon throughout all of its territory."

"The ultimate purpose of disarmament is the establishment of a strong Lebanese state for all inhabitants of Lebanon," he said.

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