October 31, 2007
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged Lebanese leaders to reach consensus on a new president who would enjoy "the broadest possible acceptance," as Lebanon tries to restore domestic stability and full political independence. Ban made the appeal in his latest report on implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended last year's 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in south Lebanon. "I call upon all Lebanese leaders to take up their responsibilities in achieving unity and conciliation through a constructive political dialogue enabling the election of a president that would enjoy the broadest acceptance, in accordance with the constitutional rules and in time frame and without foreign interference," he noted.
He said the election "before the end of President (Emile) Lahoud's mandate on November 24 is an important milestone that will pave the way for further normalization of political life in Lebanon, for effective dialogue on issues of national concern." Among the key outstanding issues, he listed the need for achieving a permanent ceasefire with Israel and a long-term solution, the release of abducted Israeli soldiers and Lebanese prisoners, an end to arms smuggling across the Syrian border and to Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace as well as the demarcation of the Lebanese-Syrian border. "A rapid resolution of the grave political crisis that would lead to domestic political stability is a key ingredient for progress regarding some of these files," the UN secretary general said.
Lebanese lawmakers have failed to agree on a consensus presidential candidate to replace Lahoud, the pro-Syrian incumbent. Fears are running high that the row could lead to two rival governments and a return to the final years of the 1975-1990 civil war when two competing administrations battled for control. The parliament's pro-Western majority accuses the Hezbollah-led opposition of taking orders from Tehran and Damascus while it is accused by the rival camp of bowing to the United States.
As he did in another report on Lebanon last week, Ban stressed the need to avoid "the looming scenario of two competing administrations or by a constitutional vacuum...as they represent a grave threat to Lebanon's stability, sovereignty and political independence." He renewed his concern about ongoing reports of arms smuggling across the Lebanese-Syrian border in violation of resolution 1701. He said such violations of the UN arms embargo "risk further destabilizing Lebanon and the whole region" and stressed that all regional countries, particularly Syria and Iran -- the main backers of the Hezbollah Shiite movement -- "have a key responsibility in this regard."
In this context, he said addressing the issue of disarming Hezbollah as well as all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias "remains critical to the extension of the authority of the government over all its territory." "Hezbollah's maintenance of an infrastructure of arms that remains separate from the state" undermines the Lebanese government's efforts to assert "its exclusive control over the entire territory."
Ban also renewed his call on Israel to end its continuing violations of Lebanese airspace and to meet requests from the UN mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for detailed data about the exact location, quantity and type of cluster munitions used by Israeli forces during last year's conflict. And he again called on Syria "to take the necessary steps" to delineate its common border with Lebanon in line with Resolution 1701.
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