Disarm Hezbollah, U.N. chief tells Lebanon

BEIRUT Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:39pm EST

Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman (R) meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut January 13, 2012 REUTERS/ Mohamed Azakir

Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman (R) meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut January 13, 2012

Credit: Reuters/ Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) - United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon demanded Friday the disarmament of the anti-Israel Lebanese Hezbollah movement, which had said his visit to Lebanon was not welcome.

"I am deeply concerned about the military capacity of Hezbollah and ... the lack of progress in disarmament," he told a news conference after meeting Lebanese leaders.

"That is why we discussed this matter very seriously and I strongly encouraged President (Michel) Suleiman to initiate a convening of this national dialogue to address these issues...

"All these arms outside of the authorized state authority, it's not acceptable," Ban declared.

The secretary-general's trip made waves even before he arrived, with one Hezbollah leader saying he was not welcome, a stance criticized by Lebanese politicians opposed to the armed Shi'ite Islamist movement and its Syrian and Iranian patrons.

Hezbollah accepted an expansion of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the south after its devastating 2006 war with Israel, but rejects a U.N. Security Council resolution that demands that it lay down its military arsenal, as all other Lebanese armed groups did after the 1975-90 civil war.

UNIFIL troops came under three attacks last year in which Italian and French soldiers were wounded. A rocket was launched into Israel in November and another rocket launching was attempted last month. No group claimed responsibility.

"There are no explicit fears that there is a new climate of hostility to the United Nations," a diplomatic source said. "But there is concern, which the secretary-general will emphasize, over the attacks (on UNIFIL) in May, July and December."

UNIFIL, now about 12,000 strong, is the third biggest U.N. peacekeeping operation and one of the oldest, beginning after an Israeli invasion against Palestinian guerrillas in 1978.

The Lebanese army has taken on a bigger role in the south since 2006, but given the tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, there is no sign of an exit strategy for the U.N. force there.

TROUBLED TRIBUNAL

Hezbollah, the most powerful faction in Lebanon, is also angry at the indictment by the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) of four of its members over the assassination of Lebanese statesman Rafik al-Hariri on Beirut's seafront in 2005.

It denies any part in the bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others and vows not to hand over the indicted men. Hezbollah also wants Lebanon's unity government, of which it is a part, to cut off funding for the tribunal and end cooperation with it.

Lebanon paid $32 million, its 49 percent share of the costs, in November, using a maneuver by which Lebanese banks gave the money to a special fund whose use did not need cabinet approval.

Ban said the United Nations "continues to expect Lebanon to support and cooperate fully with the Special Tribunal."

The U.N. chief said he would decide soon, in consultation with the Security Council and the Lebanese government, whether to extend the STL's mandate, which expires in March.

Ban, due to speak Sunday at a conference on democratic transitions, said he had repeatedly urged Syria to halt the killings that have turned a 10-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad into one of the bloodiest of Arab uprisings.

"The Syrian authorities must respond to the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Syrian people," he told the Beirut daily an-Nahar, adding that the Security Council, so far divided over Syria, should speak with one voice on the issue.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in the unrest, which Syria blames on armed "terrorists" it says have killed 2,000 members of the security forces.

Russia and China have blocked any firm Security Council action against Syria. The Arab League has sent monitors to find out if Damascus is complying with an Arab peace plan. If their report next week is negative, it may refer Syria to the council.

(Additional reporting by Dominic Evans)

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Comments (6)
Israel appears eager to start a war somewhere, so Lebanon will not disarm Hezbollah that can help defend its southern borders from attack with effective combat veterans from 2006 and with retaliation against Israeli cities. In addition, Hezbollah is too popular for its charity works inside Lebanon, actions that are dismissed by ignorant observers from the West. Further, Israelis are skilled assassins who can kill people and blame others: first, they blamed Syria; second, they blamed Hezbollah. The people of Lebanon know the truth, so Hezbollah stays. Western liars and lackeys don’t impress people after Iraq’s WMD’s, and they don’t believe in Iran’s WMD’s. Sunnis often fear Shi’ites, but it has nothing to do with western lies.

Jan 13, 2012 4:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Ban Ki Moon have you seen that ad. “If only life were like that we would not need a Visa Card” that’s how absurd you sound Mr. Moon.
Lebanon and surrounding areas are plagued with devious plots of executions and amongst other things like religious tensions between Muslims and Christians. If they disarm can you guarantee that there will never be another attack on innocent Palestinian (women & Children) that were masssacered by the christian Malitia of Eli Hubaiker and his cronies in Sabra and Shatilla??? Can you Mr. Moon??? Hezbollah however violent they are they hold the balance of power to protect the already persecuted Palestinians.They have earned the goodwill of the shia Muslims by actions, in conclusion balance of power is a good thing. Otherwise the meek would perish and strong would prevail.

Jan 13, 2012 5:01pm EST  --  Report as abuse
USAalltheway wrote:
Never a smart idea to have a government within a government, especially one with its own military who answers to no one.

Jan 13, 2012 5:10pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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