UNITED NATIONS, (AP) – The United States said Wednesday there was clear evidence of arms smuggling across the Syrian border to terrorist groups in Lebanon, and accused Iran and Syria of playing a negative role in the country.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad made the accusation after a closed Security Council meeting to discuss progress on a U.N. resolution that ended last summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas backed by Syria and Iran. That resolution banned weapon transfers to Hezbollah.
Khalilzad said the United States had sent a clear message in the meeting on “the negative role that Syria and Iran are playing and called on them to cease and desist from their negative activities” in Lebanon.
He added that there was clear evidence of “arms transfers to terrorist groups” inside Lebanon, including Hezbollah, the Palestinian extremist group PFLP-GC and Fatah Islam, the al-Qaida-inspired militant group that has been fighting the Lebanese army for the past two months.
Khalilzad was referring to a report by a U.N.-appointed team that assessed the border late last month and concluded that security was too lax to prevent arms smuggling.
Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari dismissed allegations that arms were being smuggled across his country’s border with Lebanon.
“We denied it many times and we are still denying it,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Ja’afari claimed the information about arms smuggling provided to the Security Council came only from Israeli intelligence and none of it was from Lebanese authorities.
However, U.N. Mideast envoy Michael Williams said “virtually all” of the arms smuggling documented in the secretary-general’s report to the Security Council last month came from the Lebanese government or Lebanese security agencies.
“I think the situation is very serious,” he told reporters.
In the report last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria and Iran to do more to prevent arms smuggling into Lebanon, citing Lebanese and Israeli government allegations of violations of the arms embargo.
Ban said Lebanon informed him that on June 6, four trucks were seen by Lebanese armed forces traveling from Syria to Lebanon. Each truck carried two vehicles mounted with 40-barrel rocket launchers, he said.
Syria dominated Lebanon for nearly three decades. But in 2005, it was forced to withdraw tens of thousands of troops from its neighbor amid an uproar over allegations that Damascus played a role in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. Syria denied it.