UN Chief, Lebanon Differ on Israeli Withdrawal
Secretary-general Kofi Annan confirmed on Friday that Israel had fully withdrawn from southern Lebanon as ordered by the Security Council, but Beirut's prime minister said some Israeli troops still remained, reported Reuters.
Nevertheless, Annan's official certification cleared the way for the 4,500-member UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to be strengthened to 5,600 troops in July and deployed in the border regions, said the agency.
UN map experts and others were to have checked that all Israeli troops and officials have pulled back behind an international border demarcated in 1923.
"I am delighted to tell you that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon has today reported to me that Israel has withdrawn from the country in full compliance with Security Council resolution 425," Annan said.
He spoke at a news conference minutes before he left for the Middle East "to see what the United Nations can do to consolidate and build on today's achievement."
But shortly after Annan statement, Lebanese prime minister Selim Hoss rejected it, saying, "I do not think the UN secretary-general could announce the completion of the withdrawal according to UN Resolution 425 if he knew these facts," the Daily Star reported.
"With deep regret, and it was clear this evening, Israel did not withdraw from all Lebanese lands," he said. "Israeli military positions are still inside the Lebanese borders and some Lebanese lands are still under Israeli control in an overt violation."
Diplomats said Annan told the Council that Israel was late in withdrawing from one border position, known as "marker 18."
"He confirmed the withdrawal on the basis of an understanding that the installation was being removed," said one envoy, adding that UN troops would check again on Saturday to see this had been done, said Reuters - (Several Sources)
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