* UN official worried about Syria's possible "destruction"
* Lebanese are deeply divided over conflict in Syria
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 19 The reported
participation of Lebanese fighters on both sides of the
escalating Syrian conflict violates the country's policy of not
interfering in Syria's civil war and creates risks for Lebanon,
the U.N. political affairs chief said on Wednesday.
The remarks from U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political
Affairs Jeffrey Feltman came in a bleak assessment of the
situation in Syria, in which he said that "if nothing is done to
change the current dynamic, and to move toward a political
solution, the destruction of Syria will be the likely outcome."
Feltman's report to the 15-nation Security Council came
after the United Nations appealed for $1.5 billion to provide
life-saving aid to millions of Syrians suffering in a
"dramatically deteriorating" humanitarian situation in a
conflict that has killed over 40,000 people.
"The situation in Lebanon remains severely affected by the
ongoing conflict in Syria," Feltman said at a council meeting on
the Middle East. "Cross-border shelling and arms smuggling
"Multiple reports suggest there are Lebanese implicated in
Syria's violence, both on the side of the Assad regime and the
opposition," he said. "This violates the Lebanese government's
'disassociation' policy and puts Lebanon increasingly at risk."
U.N. officials say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
continues to exercise his country's historic influence in
Lebanon, despite the 2005 departure of thousands of Syrian
troops and intelligence operatives from Lebanese soil. Many in
north Lebanon say their army takes orders from Damascus.
Lebanese authorities and security institutions have a long
history of collaboration with and domination by Damascus.
Lebanon is deeply divided over the conflict.
The United Nations has repeatedly said that Syria's
21-month-long conflict has the potential to severely destabilize
Lebanon, a tiny country still recovering from its own 15-year
civil war, which ended in 1990. Recent months have seen clashes
between supporters of the rebels and opponents of the uprising.
'NO MILITARY SOLUTION'
Lebanon's former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, son of slain
statesman Rafik al-Hariri, has openly criticized the Lebanese
government's disassociation policy.
Hariri, whose Lebanese unity government was toppled in
January last year when pro-Assad parties pulled out of the
cabinet, has been an active opponent of the Syrian president
since Syria's uprising erupted 20 months ago.
Last week Syria said it issued arrest warrants against
former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri and a close
political ally for "terrorist crimes" of financing and arming
rebels fighting to oust Assad.
Separately, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told
reporters on Wednesday that "both parties (in Syria) must
realize there is no military solution."
"This crisis should be resolved through political dialogue,"
U.N. diplomats and officials, however, say privately that it
may be too late for a negotiated solution in a conflict that
looks increasingly deadlocked, with neither government forces
nor the rebels in a position to deal a death blow to the other.
Ban welcomed recent efforts by the Syrian opposition to
overcome its divisions, saying it was a "critical" development.
"I am deeply concerned about the increased militarization of
the conflict and the potential for sectarian atrocities," he
He called on countries to support U.N.-Arab League peace
envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who has tried but failed so far to get
Russia and the United States to overcome their differences on
Syria that have prevented the Security Council from taking any
meaningful action in the conflict.
Syria's staunch ally and arms supplier Russia, supported by
China, has vetoed three Security Council resolutions condemning
Assad and has said that it strongly opposes the idea of
sanctioning Assad's government. Council diplomats say there are
no signs Moscow is softening its position on Syria in New York.
Syria has accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, the United
States and France of funding and arming the rebels, an
allegation the five countries have denied. U.N. diplomats and
officials, however, say that weapons are clearly reaching the
rebels via Gulf Arab states and Turkey.