Arab League to Hold Meeting on Lebanon Saturday
The Arab League will hold Saturday at the level of permanent members a meeting to discuss the military escalations in Lebanon, Reported Kuwaiti news agency(KUNA) Friday.
The Agency quoted AL’s Secretary General Esmat Abdel Meguid as saying in Cairo the meeting was decided after consultations with Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss, and Omani minister of state Youssef bin Alawi, whose country heads the current session of the organization.
In the meanwhile, Lebanese leaders reacted furiously Friday to Israeli air strikes on Lebanon, saying the Jewish state bore full responsibility and questioning its integrity two months before its planned withdrawal from the south of the country.
United Nations envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, currently visiting Beirut, also condemned the raids and the Lebanese Hizbollah movement's rocket attacks on Lebanon which triggered them.
US ambassador David Satterfield passed on a similar message to Prime Minister Hoss from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
"We strongly condemn these barbarous raids by Israel, call on the international community to act on behalf of Lebanon and will take the necessary steps to oblige Israel to stop its aggression against my country," Hoss said in a statement.
Noting that the latest raids came as Israel was preparing to end its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon in July, Hoss said, "This demonstrates to the whole world Israel's duplicity and its lack of serious intention to respect international resolutions and humanitarian principles."
Hoss called on the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to "exert immediate pressure on Israel to prevent it from pursuing raids against civilian targets in Lebanon," officials said.
The prime minister summoned Friday the ambassadors of the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China to relay his request, they said.
Hoss, who is also foreign minister, would also be meeting Arab ambassadors to inform them of the damage inflicted by the Israeli raids and "ask for the backing of the Arab countries."
In Cairo the Arab League said it would hold an emergency ministerial meeting on Saturday to discuss the latest escalation.
Referring to earlier Israeli air strikes in February, Hoss added: "Scarcely had we finished repairing the damage caused by previous attacks, Israel once again has given us a sample of its arrogance and barbarism."
In a separate statement President Emile Lahoud noted that the latest flare-up came as Roed-Larsen was in Lebanon for talks on preparing for Israel's pullout under Security Council Resolution 425.
This "betrays its intentions to torpedo Resolution 425 by trying to impose terms which Lebanon rejects," he said.
"Israel reveals once more its criminal and racist policy which escapes any international condemnation," Lahoud charged, adding, "These crimes will not make Lebanon abandon its national steadfastness."
Neither leader referred to Thursday's Katyusha rocket strikes by the Lebanese Hizbollah guerrilla group on northern Israel, which sparked the Israeli attacks, but Lahoud condemned the civilian casualties caused by air raids and artillery fire in southern Lebanon that prompted Hizbollah to react.
In raids early Friday Israeli jets blasted electricity relay stations near the capital and in northern Lebanon, cutting off power to several areas of the country.
They also hit a Hizbollah arms depot, and fired a missile near a Syrian intelligence post in the east, police said.
A UN statement said Roed-Larsen "deplored Israel's attacks on Lebanese civilian targets today, declaring that such punitive raids are unacceptable," the statement said.
He called on Israel to "refrain from further military action against Lebanese territorial integrity" and "Lebanese groups to cease their attacks against Israeli civilians."
"Any attacks against civilians are unacceptable ... such actions are particularly unhelpful at the present time," said Roed-Larsen, who arrived in Beirut on Wednesday.
Roed-Larsen called on "all concerned parties" not to waste the opportunity to move towards full implementation of UN resolutions."
"The full and unconditional implementation of these resolutions is in the interest of all parties, without exception. I call on all parties to exercise maximum restraint," said Roed-Larsen.
Satterfield told reporters that Albright denounced the "attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructures and civilian facilities on both sides" in a letter, which he handed to Hoss
"We expressed on behalf of the US government our regret for the death and injuries of Lebanese civilians," said Satterfield.
"The Secretary expressed her concerns on this escalation. This is a particularly sensitive, particularly volatile situation," he said.
"It is extremely important that all sides do everything possible to halt actions which can lead to an escalation. Such an escalation will not be in the interest of any party," he added -- (Agencies)
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