By Dalal SaoudUnited Press International
June 20, 2000
Hezbollah chief Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah called Tuesday on the United Nations to solve quickly the Israeli border violations, warning that his group will "not wait long" for such political efforts.
In a statement released after an unplanned meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Nasrallah said the Lebanese government, which is operating "with utmost seriousness under the watchful eyes of the resistance and Lebanese people," was the one to evaluate whether Israel has completed its withdrawal from south Lebanon up to the internationally-recognized border.
Noting that the Lebanese cannot be "lenient" with any inch of Lebanese territories, he said: "That's why the U.N. is requested to solve quickly and decisively the Israeli violations, whereby the blue line (drawn by the U.N.) means nothing to us because what our people want is their natural rights in their land."
Lebanon has been complaining about a number of Israeli violations on the Lebanese border, urging the U.N. to remove them as a condition to accept announcement of full pullout from south Lebanon in line with Security Council Resolution 425. "Since the Lebanese people and resistance haven't waited during all the past years for anyone, and especially the international community, but fought a bloody fight until reaching liberation, they will not wait long for political efforts to solve these (border) violations," Nasrallah said.
The Hezbollah chief also told Annan that the issue of the remaining Lebanese prisoners still held in Israel was a "priority" to his group, saying: " We cannot be free as long as there are some of our brothers in jails. This is a very important issue to us, and we advise all to release the detainees immediately without linking this to any other issue." He was referring to some 20 Lebanese detainees, including Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani, who are still held by Israel as a bargain chip to locate Israeli Air Navigator Ron Arad, who has been missing since his F-16 jet was downed over south Lebanon in 1986.
Annan, sought Hezbollah cooperation during his meeting with Nasrallah at the group's headquarters in Beirut's southern suburbs. The meeting took place at the request of Annan before he concluded his visit to Beirut and flew to Amman. "The cooperation (with Hezbollah) has always been good and we want to maintain it." Annan said. "I hope that the situation in the south, which has remained calm since the Israel withdrawal will continue, to be so."
He said he "did not go into the future of Hezbollah" with Nasrallah but discussed the need for cooperation between the U.N. Interim Force in south Lebanon, the Lebanese government and non-state actors, such as Hezbollah. He emphasized the need for Hezbollah to cooperate with UNIFIL "at this critical stage."
Hezbollah, which has been the main group fighting Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, warned that it will maintain resistance operations if Israel retains one inch of Lebanese territory. Annan said he asked the UNIFIL to check alleged Israeli violations of the Lebanese border, promising to be "vigilant in investigating each and every violation and ensure they are corrected." "We are in the process of getting the violations corrected," he said, expecting such a move to be completed in "a relatively short time" and "not months."
Lebanon President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Selim Hoss, who met Annan on Monday, reiterated that Israel's pullout would not be complete unless all border violations are eliminated. Hoss, however, said today that Annan expressed "complete understanding" of Lebanon's refusal of any Israeli violations of its international border and of any substitute line for the one drawn by the then-French and British mandated forces in 1923 and reconfirmed by the 1949 Israeli-Lebanese armistice agreement.
The U.N. secretary-general said he discussed plans for economic and social development for south Lebanon, expecting major donors to pledge support during a conference to be organized soon for this purpose.
On the stalled Middle East peace process and Syrian-Israeli peace track, Annan said the new leadership in Syria following President Hafez Assad's death should be given "the chance to settle in, and we should wait to see what is the next move." Annan said he was to visit Damascus where he was expected to meet with Assad's son and successor, Bashar Assad, and pay his condolences for his late father.