UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Alleged arms smuggling into Lebanon and the possible arming of various groups there may deepen the country’s political crisis, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in a report released here Monday.
“I am deeply worried that the political crisis in Lebanon may be deepened and exacerbated by allegations” from various sources regarding “illegal arms trafficking and the possible arming” of various Lebanese and non-Lebanese groups, he said.
He said the allegations of illegal arms smuggling across the Syrian-Lebanese border needed to be addressed and urged “all relevant parties, in particular the governments of Syria and Iran, to ensure full implementation of Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701.”
Last month, the 15-member Security Council asked Ban to send an independent mission to investigate reports of illegal arms movements across the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Syria has denied that arms are making their way over the border into Lebanon.
Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in south Lebanon in August, called for the prevention of illegal arms sales and smuggling operations in Lebanon.
Resolution 1559, adopted in 2004, called for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon and the disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.
Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in 2005 after 29 years of military and political domination of its smaller neighbor, in line with that resolution.
Ban’s report, the fifth such semi-annual study since resolution 1559 was adopted, also stated that Hezbollah’s arms “continue to pose a key challenge to the (Lebanese) government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force and all efforts to reassert Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.”
Ban also called for free and fair elections to choose a successor to Lebanon’s pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term expires in November.
He stressed that the electoral process should be “conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence, in accordance to resolution 1559.”
Lahoud’s mandate was controversially extended by three years in September 2004 after parliament, under pressure from Lebanon’s then political master Syria, adopted a constitutional amendment to that effect.
Lebanon has been mired in a political crisis over the planned creation of a UN-backed international tribunal set to try suspects in the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, which was widely blamed on Syria and which Damascus has strongly denied.
The anti-Syrian parliamentary majority in Lebanon has accused Syria of blocking the creation of the tribunal, including by putting pressure on pro-Syrian cabinet ministers who resigned last November.