UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to convene the Security Council next month to decide on peacekeeping efforts in south Lebanon after the Israeli army’s July pullout, reported Ha,aretz on Friday.
Western diplomatic sources were quoted Thursday as saying Annan would by then have received a full report from his special envoy, Terje Larsen, on his current visit to the region.
The report added that Annan is to recommend how the UN will fulfill its mandate in south Lebanon, including helping to restore peace and stability in accordance with Security Council Resolution 425 of 1978.
Larsen - accompanied by senior UNIFIL officers and officials, cartographers, lawyers, and experts from UN headquarters in New York - met last night with Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, following lengthy talks earlier in the day with Foreign Minister David Levy.
The sources said these were the first of a series of meetings that Larsen is scheduled to have with leaders in the region, including government officials in Damascus, Amman, and Cairo. The latter is to be his last port of call and from there he is scheduled to fly back to UN headquarters on May 10 to submit his report to Annan.
Larsen agreed to report back to Barak and Levy on his other meetings in the region.
Israeli and UN cartographers are today to begin work on determining the exact location of Israel's northern border after the withdrawal, said the Israeli daily. Legal experts will also be meeting as the two parties attempt to work out final terms for the withdrawal.
During his meetings with Barak and Levy, it is understood Larsen was asked to consider increasing the UNIFIL presence in south Lebanon from 4,000 troops to some 7,000, in order to fill the void that will be created by the pullback.
In Jerusalem, Thursday’s morning's security cabinet meeting also focused on the withdrawal from Lebanon, with senior army officers offering a series of withdrawal scenarios. No decisions were understood to have been taken, however, said Ha’aretz.
In their meeting, Barak told Larsen that Israel's decision to get out of Lebanon will be in accordance with Resolution 425. Barak added that Israel would respect the sovereignty of Lebanon without harming its right of self-defense, a Defense Ministry statement said.
BATTLE RAGES IN SOUTHERN LEBANON AS US ENVOY STARTS TOUR
Hizbollah fighters launched a mass bombardment with rockets and mortars on Israeli army and allied militia positions at dawn Friday, sparking retaliatory shelling and air raids, police said.
Hizbollah, the main group fighting Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon, pounded 26 redoubts across the occupied zone with some 180 mortar bombs and Katyusha rockets.
At the same time, members of the group with light arms and anti-tank rockets attacked four positons on the edge of the central sector of the zone, Aaramta, Barasheet, Shqaif al-Namel and al-Ghozlan.
At Aaramta Hizbollah claimed its fighters killed or wounded all the occupants and blown up the fortifications before withdrawing unharmed.
The radio of Israel's allied South Lebanon Army (SLA) confirmed the attacks, but said there were no casualties.
The radio added that a dozen rockets fell near the town of Marjayoun, site of the SLA and Israeli army headquarters, damaging houses.
Israeli artillery and tanks responded, firing some 400 shells at hills and ravines north of the occupied zone suspected of sheltering guerrillas, police said.
Israeli fighter-bombers also launched four missiles at Hizbollah bases in the Iqlim al-Tuffah hills, and were fired on by Lebanese army and Hizbollah anti-aircraft batteries.
In Israel a military spokesman said the attacks had wounded one Israeli soldier, whose life was not in danger, and several SLA militiamen. The spokesman also confirmed the air attacks, saying the aircraft had returned to base undamaged.
The escalation in the war in southern Lebanon came as United Nations envoy Terje Roed-Larsen began a two-week tour to discuss Israel's plan to end its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon in July – (Several Sources).
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