U.N. Council backs Beirut; worried by arms traffic

UNITED NATIONS Mon Jun 11, 2007 10:38pm EDT

Dozens of refugees are seen at the southern gate of the Palestinian Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon June 11, 2007. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen

Dozens of refugees are seen at the southern gate of the Palestinian Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon June 11, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Jerry Lampen

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council backed the Lebanese government on Monday in its battle against Palestinian militants and expressed deep concern at "mounting information" of illegal arms crossing from Syria.

In a policy statement read at a public meeting, the 15-nation body condemned "ongoing criminal and terrorist acts in Lebanon, including those perpetrated by Fatah-al Islam" militants in Palestinian refugee camps.

At least 136 people have been killed, including 60 soldiers, in three weeks of fighting between Lebanese government troops and the militants, the worst internal clashes since Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.

Eleven Lebanese soldiers died and more than 100 were wounded in battles on the weekend alone in clashes in the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian camp in northern Lebanon near Tripoli.

The council also expressed "deep concern at mounting information by Israel and other states of illegal movements of arms in Lebanon, and in particular across the Lebanese-Syrian border," said the statement read by Belgium's U.N. ambassador, Johan Verbeke, this month's council president.

The statement said the council "looks forward" to the conclusions of a U.N. team currently surveying monitoring and security along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

The council again supported Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's "legitimate and democratically-elected government" and condemned any effort to destabilize Lebanon.

The council issued the statement after hearing from U.N. Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, who reports regularly on whether foreign troops are out of Lebanon and militia are disbanded and disarmed.

Roed-Larsen told reporters he drew an "alarming and deeply disturbing picture" of "a steady flow of weapons and armed elements across the border from Syria."

In its statement, the council regretted that "the disbanding and disarming of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militia" had not been carried out, an obvious reference to the Hezbollah group as well as the Palestinian fighters.

"It reiterates its call for the strict respect for Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity, including its airspace," the statement said in a reference to Israel's overflights.

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