UN Envoy Cancels Trip to Lebanon due to ‘Deteriorating Situation in Palestinian Territories’
The UN's special envoy to the Middle East, Terry Roed-Larsen, cancelled Sunday a scheduled visit to Beirut because of the "deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories," a UN official said, cited by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
Larsen had been scheduled to arrive in Beirut late Sunday to participate in a two-day demining conference.
The conference is aimed at setting up a plan to start work on demining southern Lebanon in the wake of Israel's withdrawal last year.
Lebanon’s Defense Minister Khalil Hrawi told the Daily Star newspaper Sunday that several countries and groups would send military delegations or experts to the event, including the UAE, the US, Italy and the Mines Advisory Group, a British charity organization.
He said that the conference's first day would include a "comprehensive explanation" of the scale of the demining project, after which participants were expected to state their country's contribution.
On Tuesday, delegates will attend a mock demining operation at the army barracks in Nabatieh.
Also participating will be Syrian Army representatives and an American team, which will train officers for the task, he told the paper.
The demonstration will take place in a specially-prepared 3,000-square-meter field, which has been divided into squares and rectangles.
UNIFIL's Ukrainian battalion will provide mine sweepers for the mock operation, while trained dogs will also participate.
"If countries fulfill their promises, we expect to accomplish a lot within three or four years," he said.
"If help remains limited ... it will be a long process. It would take about 15 or 20 years because our capacities are limited and primitive."
In another development, Hrawi confirmed over the weekend that the government had finally received maps of Israeli minefields in the south, the paper said.
But the maps, which authorities received from Israel via the United Nations, are “very limited,” Hrawi said.
Staffan de Mistura, personal representative of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, announced on Thursday that maps covering 70 percent of the minefields in the former Lebanese occupied territories had been obtained from Israel.
Hrawi said the government had asked countries that have ties with Israel, such as the United States, France and Italy, to pressure Israel to hand over the rest of the maps.
“We should have the maps, but I find it difficult because planting mines has a military objective,” said Hrawi.
“If we obtain the maps, it would be better and if not, we’ll continue our work,” said the minister – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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