Annan criticizes Hizbullah; UNIFIL mandate to be extended
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is to be downsized and will play primarily an observer role.
The biannual mandate of the international peace-keeping force is due for renewal at the end of this month and is expected to be approved by the Security Council.
A diplomatic source has predicted United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to recommend to the UN Security Council a renewal of the UNIFIL mandate. The new mandate would extend from Aug. 1, to Jan. 31, 2003.
According to Lebanon’s Daily Star, the source indicated the council would make “no changes” to the mandate but might not endorse Beirut’s request to maintain its size. The current 3,600 peacekeeping force is inclined to be “gradually reduced” to 2,000 by Jan. 31.
Meanwhile, Annan wrote in his report to the council Wednesday on UNIFIL's activities over the past six months that the proposed reduction and redeployment of the force is going ahead as planned.
Both Hizbullah and Lebanon came under sharp criticism in his report, with Hizbullah held accountable for numerous cross-border attacks on Israeli civilians and on Israeli positions in the Shebaa farms area.
Lebanon was criticized for failure to comply with UN Resolution 425 by stationing Lebanese soldiers in the South to reassert government control. "The commitment by Hizbullah to the launching of hostile attacks across the Blue Line, and the Lebanese government's unwillingness to fulfill its commitment to ensure full respect for the Blue Line, contravene Security Council decisions," Annan wrote.
The United Nations position is clear, that attacks anywhere across the Blue Line, whether into Israel or the Shebaa farms area, constitute violations of Security Council resolutions," he wrote.
The report said Israeli retaliation to Hizbullah attacks "was confined to targets in the areas from which Hizbullah fire had emanated."
The report referred also to Hizbullah attacks on UNIFIL forces, including an April 4 incident in which 15 Hizbullah members stopped an observer group patrol at gun point and attacked them with rifle butts, wounding three people. Annan said Lebanon has not arrested the attackers.
Annan also demanded Israel end flights into Lebanese airspace. He wrote that since April, the Israeli air force has tried to evade detection by UNIFIL forces by flying out to sea and entering Lebanon north of UNIFIL's area of operation. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)