Lebanon, UN Differ over Israeli Withdrawal
Lebanon said Monday that the Israeli retreat line drawn by the United Nations does not cover the Shabaa Farms, which are still occupied by Israel but which Beirut plans to recover "by all means possible."
"The United Nations 'blue line' does not cover the Shabaa Farms. These farms are Lebanese and Israel is still occupying them. We have committed ourselves, and remain committed, to work for their liberation," Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammud told the press.
He was speaking after meeting with Rolf Knutsson, the personal representative of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who described Thursday's Hizbollah attack in the area as "a dangerous violation" of the withdrawal line and called on Beirut to take "immediate measures to guarantee respect" of the line.
From its side, Hizbollah said Monday its struggle against Israel would continue so long as there are Lebanese held in Israeli jails and the Jewish state occupies part of Lebanon's territory and threatens its sovereignty.
Hammud recalled that Beirut had on several occasions warned against "incidents of this kind" if Israel remained in the Shabaa Farms area after its May 24 withdrawal from southern Lebanon following 22 years of occupation.
These "farms" are spread over some 20 square kilometers (eight square miles) on the slopes of Mount Hermon, in the border area between Syria, Israel and Lebanon.
"All the parties should understand that Lebanon is determined to press for the liberation of its land by all means," he said.
He acknowledged that the UN considered the Hizbollah attack to be a violation of the 'blue line.' "That is the point of view of the UN. We are sticking to our position," he said.
Hammud also said he had asked Knutsson to "raise the issue of Israeli violations. The incident that happened in Shabaa can not be compared with the daily Israeli aggressions by air, land, and sea," he said.
"It is essential that all violations stop immediately," he said in a statement distributed by the United Nations information center in Beirut.
For his part, Knutsson said during the meeting that he could not let "the slightest violation of the withdrawal line quietly pass."
The Shabaa Farms are in an area occupied since 1967 and are covered by resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) of the UN Security Council, Knutsson said, adding that the May 24 withdrawal was in line with resolution 425 of 1978.
Lebanon and Israel "are committed to respect fully the withdrawal line ... it is pointless to add that that means the two sides must not tolerate the slightest hostility or act of violence across this line," he added.
However, he did underline that he had agreed with Hammud over the "need for the UN and Lebanon to work together to build the right conditions for peace and security" during the meeting, which he described as "warm, fruitful and friendly."
Asked whether Syria had presented the United Nations with documents proving that the Shabaa Farms were Lebanese, and not Syrian as claimed by Israel, the Lebanese foreign minister referred to a letter from Damascus to the UN, indirectly recognizing that to be the case.
"Syria sent a letter to the UN two months ago in which it says it considers that Israel has not fully applied resolution 425 and calls for it to complete its withdrawal ... including from the Shabaa farms," he said -- BEIRUT (AFP)
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