|VOICE OF AMERICA|
|SLUG: 2-324425 US-Syria-Lebanon (L-only)||DATE:||NOTE NUMBER:|
HEADLINE: UN Security Council Presses Lebanon
INTRO: The U.N. Security Council has stepped up pressure on militia groups in Lebanon to disband and disarm. From U.N. headquarters, VOA's Peter Heinlein reports the 15-member council also stressed the importance of holding Lebanese elections on schedule beginning later this month.
TEXT: The Council Wednesday issued a statement of concern that requirements of Resolution 1559 had not been met. Fifteen-59, adopted last September, called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanese territory.
Syria reported last month that it had ended its 29-year military and intelligence presence in the country. A U.N. team is currently in Lebanon verifying the withdrawal.
But on the day the Syrian pullout was announced, Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported to the Council that other key provisions of resolution 1559 had not been fulfilled. He referred specifically to the disarming of groups such as Hezbollah and Palestinian militias which have remained in Lebanon.
The statement adopted unanimously Wednesday also emphasizes the need for holding elections on schedule this month in Lebanon. It also urges Lebanese authorities to seek international help to ensure that the results are credible.
Acting U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson noted afterward that the Council's unanimous decision came only after days of sometimes bitter debate.
It took several days to negotiate with interested parties. And I think it recognizes the partial implementation of 1559, with the partial withdrawal of the Syrians, but also makes clear that a lot more needs to be done to implement 1559, particularly the Lebanese free and fair elections and disarming the militia. But still it's a positive interim step.
The Security Council action came hours after Secretary-General Kofi Annan dispatched a two-person electoral team to Lebanon. Diplomats say the team will offer to help Lebanese lawmakers faced with revising an election law that was drafted under Syrian control.
Critics of the law say unless it is rewritten, it would result in the election of another pro-Syrian parliament.
The vote is slated for four consecutive weekends, beginning May 29th. (Signed)
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