UNITED NATIONS,(Reuters) – The United States wants a new U.N. Security Council resolution on what it calls continued Syrian interference in Lebanon and Iran’s backing of guerrillas there, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said on Wednesday.
Bolton said the council should react to a recent report from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which urged a delineation of borders between the two countries, disarming the the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hizbollah militia in the south, and establishing formal diplomatic ties.
The report, prepared by U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, is a response to Security Council resolution 1559 of September 2004 that called for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and for Beirut to disarm militia so it could control the entire country.
“We think a resolution would be appropriate at this point,” Bolton told reporters. “I think highlighting the areas of deficiency in Syria’s performance … would be important to show the Council’s continuing resolve.”
France’s U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, agreed on the need for a resolution but gave no details on what the measure would contain.
But China’s U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, this month’s council president, was cautious, saying, “The region is already complicated, we don’t want to make it more complicated. We are not so enthusiastic about more resolutions.”
And Syria, in a letter, said Annan’s report exceeded the mandate of the September 2004 resolution because setting borders and establishing diplomatic relations fell “within the domestic jurisdiction in both countries,” “Pushing the Security Council by some parties to adopt new resolutions or statements will not lead to calm down the situation in Lebanon or the region, but to the contrary it will escalate the situation of instability and tension,” it said.
The letter, signed by Milad Atieh, Syria’s deputy U.N. ambassador also said that Syria’s “troops, military assets and security apparatus withdrew from Lebanon on April 26, 2005.”
Bolton said the resolution could include a call for Syrian cooperation with the U.N. investigation into the murder of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri, in February 2005 that has implicated senior Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials.
Hariri’s assassination changed the political landscape of Lebanon and led to Syria’s withdrawal of troops after 29 years.
Lebanon also held parliamentary elections that resulted in a majority for anti-Syrian legislators.
Annan’s report briefly and for the first time touched on Iranian involvement. He said that Hizbollah had “close ties with frequent contacts and regular communication” with Iran as well as Syria.
Bolton said this reference was important. “We see the effect of the financing by the Iranian government of terrorist organizations and their efforts to disrupt what we think should be progress toward a sovereign and democratic Lebanon.” But Roed-Larsen, in comments to reporters after briefing the council, said that contacts between Iran and Hizbollah were well-known but “we are simply asking Iran to be helpful in order to fulfill the obligations and requirements” of the resolution.
Hizbollah’s armed presence is linked directly to the border controversy, with the militia maintaining it provides the sole resistance against a strip of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, known as the Shebaa farms.
The Security Council and the United Nations, using dozens of maps, say Shebaa is part of Syria but the two nations were free to change the border, which they have not done.
Syria and Lebanon have not had embassies on each other’s territory since Western powers carved the two states out of the remnants of the Ottoman empire in 1920. Damascus says its many bilateral ties rather than embassies suffice for the present.