UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The top U.N. envoy for Syria and Lebanon said he was encouraged by the Hezbollah leader”s recent comments about the prospects of the militia eventually disarming, even though the remarks were extremely tough.
Terje Roed-Larsen on Wednesday put an unexpected spin on Sheik Hassan Nasrallah”s comments, which were critical of his recent report reviewing the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559. That document requires the full withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence operatives from Lebanon and the disarmament of militias in the country, including Hezbollah.
The report said there had been little progress toward disarmament and called for a new dialogue to achieve it.
Nasrallah shot back that there was no point in dialogue if disarmament was the only U.N. option, but said his group would consider a dialogue on how to protect Lebanon and the role of the resistance. Asked if he was upset by those remarks, Roed-Larsen said he was "to the contrary very encouraged."
"The most important (thing) he said there is that he will open up for a dialogue as concerns what they term ”the resistance” and the issue of the arms," Roed-Larsen said.
"I thought that was very encouraging and I found it a very productive comment."
"I hope that will pave the way for and form the basis for a constant dialogue with the government of Lebanon," he told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council on his report.
Roed-Larsen briefed the council two days after it unanimously adopted a resolution demanding Syria cooperate more fully with a U.N.-backed investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri or face "further action."
Roed-Larsen”s report highlighted one major success, Syria”s April withdrawal of military forces from its neighbor, done in the face of intense public pressure after the Feb. 14 bombing that killed Hariri and 20 others.
Yet it also said that Palestinian militants in Lebanon are getting more weapons from Syria, and Hezbollah shows no sign of disarming.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the United States was considering drafting a new resolution that would push again for the complete implementation of resolution 1559, with the emphasis on disarming the militias.
Russia”s ambassador, Andrey Denisov, said his nation, which holds the Security Council presidency for November, isn”t interested in a new resolution.
He pointed to the resolution against Syria adopted Monday and told reporters that Russia, which is an ally of Syria, would see a new one as "overkill." That notion rankled Bolton.
"This is not overkill to insist that Security Council resolutions be upheld and fully implemented and that”s what we”d be looking for," he said.
Roed-Larsen”s report also said there was no "visible or significant Syrian intelligence" still in Lebanon. Speaking with reporters, he acknowledged that intelligence forces are covert by nature, so it was impossible to say whether there had been a complete withdrawal.
Bolton also questioned the relevance of the report”s observation about the lack of a visible intelligence presence.
"If I were a Syrian taxpayer and my intelligence activities were visible, I would demand a refund, so of course he”s not finding any visible Syrian intelligence activity," Bolton said.
Denisov said Russia wants to wait for the U.N. investigation into Hariri”s assassination to be completed. German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who heads the probe, is to report back to the council after his mandate expires Dec. 15. His first report last week said it was unlikely Hariri”s killing occurred without the approval of senior Syrian intelligence officials.