UNITED NATIONS, (AFP) – The United States on Thursday accused Syria and Iran of fuelling tensions in Lebanon, which a top UN envoy called part of a “hurricane blowing up” in the Middle East.
The United States said Syria was illicitly arming Hezbollah and other militias and showing “flagrant disregard” for the country’s independence. Syria rejected the attack.
The UN Security Council discussed Lebanon as Hezbollah stepped up pressure on the UN-backed investigation into the 2005 killing of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri. Hezbollah’s leader said all Lebanese should boycott the probe.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said that Syria and Iran were seeking to “endanger stability.”
The Shiite Muslim Hezbollah could only remain the most heavily armed militia in Lebanon with “Syria’s aid and facilitation of Syrian and Iranian arms” in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1747, she added.
Rice said Syria, Iran and Hezbollah “believe that escalating sectarian tensions will help them assert their own authority over Lebanon. However these actors serve only to destabilize Lebanon and the region.
“Syria especially has displayed flagrant disregard for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon,” she said.
Rice added that “Syria continues to provide increasingly sophisticated weapons” to Hezbollah and other militias in contravention of UN resolutions.
Syria’s UN ambassador, Bashar al-Jafari, condemned the accusations.
“Ambassador Rice gave credibility to wrong facts,” he told reporters, highlighting comments made by Lebanese officials for a UN report that they had no evidence of arms smuggling across the Syrian border.
He said she had ignored “positive developments” in Lebanon and the region.
The UN special envoy for Lebanon, Terje Roed Larsen, said however that the country is in a “hyper-dangerous” state.
“Militias holding arms in Lebanon today is an intimidation in itself, particularly when it is paired with reckless and irresponsible rhetoric,” Larsen told reporters after briefing the Security Council.
“Lebanon is more conflicted every day we see now. And we know that in Lebanon we have militias which are very heavily armed and increasingly so and this creates a hyper-dangerous situation,” he said.
He said the United Nations did not have the means to investigate the US allegations of Syrian and Iranian arms supplies, but said: “There is a consistency between allegations we are hearing and statements from Hezbollah itself concerning their capabilities.”
“These weapons are of course not coming from the moon.”
The Middle East is “a region where we have cross-winds and a hurricane blowing up,” Larsen warned.
“In the middle of those cross-winds there is a tent standing and that tent is critically held up by two poles. One is the Palestinian one and one is the Lebanese. If one of those poles crack, the whole tent will go down.
“In other words, if the Lebanese situation is destabilized I am afraid that it will have rippling effects across the region.”
Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s national government but it has sought to block the UN investigation into the assassination of Hariri.
Unconfirmed reports have indicated that the tribunal is set to accuse members of Hezbollah, which has confirmed that several of its members have been questioned.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday urged all Lebanese to boycott the UN investigation, warning that any cooperation amounted to an attack on his militant group.
Angry women on Wednesday attacked two investigators from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at a clinic in a Hezbollah-controlled Beirut suburb.