UNITED NATIONS (AFP) -The Security Council on Monday reiterated “deep concern” at mounting reports of “illegal movements of arms” across the Lebanese Syrian-border, amid fears of escalating strife.
The 15-member council also renewed its full support to Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s government whose troops have been trying to crush Islamist militiamen in a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli for the past three weeks.
In a non-binding statement, council members called on all Lebanese political parties to show responsibility “with a view to preventing, through dialogue, further deterioration of the situation.”
The council issued the statement after hearing from UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed Larsen who drew an “alarming and deeply disturbing picture” of the situation, citing Lebanese army reports of “a steady flow of weapons and armed elements across the border from Syria.”
He said this was alarming because of the “internal dynamic” in Lebanon and in direct contravention of Security Council Resolution 1559 of 2004 which calls for the disbanding of all militias.
“The information from the government of Lebanon on trafficking of arms and militants across the Syrian-Lebanese border is disturbing,” Roed Larsen told the council.
He also cited detailed reports from Israel and other states “on illegal transfers of arms” indicating that some weapons produced outside the region arrive via third countries and are brought clandestinely into Lebanon via the Syrian border.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon recently sent an independent mission to fully assess monitoring of the Syria-Lebanon border and a mission report is expected at the end of the month.
The envoy also highlighted “allegations of widespread rearming and the possibility of renewed fighting among the Lebanese.”
“The recent seizure of a truckload of arms for Hezbollah (the powerful Shiite movement) in the Bekaa valley is particularly worrisome,” he noted.
He also referred to the Lebanese army siege of Fatah al-Islam militants in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon where two Lebanese Red Cross workers were killed by bullets fired from inside Monday.
Their deaths brought to 125 the number of people killed since the clashes erupted on May 20, including 58 Lebanese army soldiers and 50 members of Fatah al-Islam, a shadowy Al-Qaeda-inspired Sunni Muslim gang.
Roed Larsen said militias such as Fatah al-Islam or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP-GC) and Fatah-Intifadah heaquartered in Damascus seem to grow stronger with higher quality arms.
“What we have seen in Nahr al-Bared, in Ein El-Hilweh and in Beirut and its surroundings, may well have been only an opening salvo,” Roed Larsen warned.
He also deplored the fact that Israeli air overflights of Lebanese air space “continue on an almost daily basis” in violation of UN resolutions, and said the UN secretary general wanted them to cease.
Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari lambasted Roed Larsen for giving “a partial assessment of the situation … which cast some doubt on the credibility of some of the allegations.”
He accused the UN envoy, who is persona non grata in Syria, of “always aggravating the situation between Lebanon and Syria” and ignoring “Israeli interference as well as other foreign interference in Lebanese affairs.”