* 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
al-Hariri and a close political ally for "terrorist crimes" of
financing and arming rebels fighting to oust Assad.
Separately, the council unanimously adopted a resolution
extending for six months a U.N. peacekeeping mission in a
demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel, which warned that
border tensions could escalate with Syria's civil war.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday the crisis
should be resolved through political dialogue and that "both
parties must realize there is no military solution."
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.
Ban welcomed recent efforts by the Syrian opposition to
overcome its divisions. "I am deeply concerned about the
increased militarization of the conflict and the potential for
sectarian atrocities," he told reporters.
U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has failed 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 opposes the idea of sanctioning Assad's government.