Addressing Security Council, Lebanese minister urges steps to end violence

The Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1697 (2006), extending the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) until 31 August 2006. (UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)

Addressing a meeting of the United Nations Security Council today, Lebanon’s acting Foreign Minister urged an immediate series of steps aimed at quelling the violence there, while Israel’s representative said his country was acting in self-defence and called for the authorities in Beirut to take control of their entire nation.

Tarek Mitri decried the recent unabated attacks by Israel and asked for an international investigation into the “crime of Qana” where over 50 civilians were killed this weekend. “The spilled blood of the children in Qana deserves more, much more, than expressions of regret.”

He called on the Council members “to assist us in putting an end to this human tragedy” and proposed an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. This should be accompanied by a declaration of agreement on releasing all Lebanese and Israeli prisoners and detainees through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Israeli army should be withdrawn behind the Blue Line and the displaced should return to their villages.

The Security Council, he continued, should commit to placing the Shabaa Farms and Kafr Shuba hills until border delineation and Lebanese sovereignty over them are fully settled. Further, Israel should surrender all remaining landmine maps covering South Lebanon to the United Nations. The Lebanese Government must extend its authority over its territory through its own legitimate armed forces.

The UN international force operating in South Lebanon must be enhanced in numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operation in order to undertake critical humanitarian work and to guarantee stability in the South so that those who fled their homes can return, the Foreign Minister said, calling also for the international community to assist Lebanon with relief, reconstruction and rebuilding.

“We owe our people an honourable way out of this war,” he said. “We owe our people, with your support, a solution that will not allow a further destruction and will help us rebuild our nation.”

Israel’s representative, Dan Gillerman, said he agreed with Lebanon’s assessment that there should be no return to the status quo ante. He said Israel had never had any claim against Lebanon’s sovereignty, but had been repeatedly compelled to act not against Lebanon but against the forces operating in the territory, including Syria. “When will Lebanon finally take its fate into its own hands?” he asked.

Israel was only in Lebanon to protect itself against a “blatant act of war,” the Ambassador said.

The meeting marked the fourth time the Council gathered formally since Sunday to discuss Lebanon. The first meeting was convened by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said the Council must condemn the Israeli bombing of Qana, and must call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, warning that a failure to act decisively would undermine the United Nations itself.

The Council then met again on Sunday to adopt a Presidential Statement deploring the Qana attack. Then earlier today it extended for one month the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), before hearing in the afternoon from the Lebanese Foreign Minister and Israeli Ambassador.

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