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Syrian Weapons Still Flowing into Lebanon, United Nations Says

27 October 2005

Envoy reports to Security Council on implementation of Resolution 1559

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Increasing numbers of weapons and personnel from Syria are crossing the border destined for Palestinian militias in Lebanon despite Beirut's efforts to assert its authority throughout its territory, according to a U.N. report released October 26.

The report was prepared for the Security Council by U.N. special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to monitor Syria's compliance with the council's Resolution 1559. That resolution demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon and the disarming of militias.

"There has been an increasing influx of weaponry and personnel from Syria to some" of the Palestinian militias in Lebanon, Roed-Larsen said in the report.

Lebanese forces have increased deployment along the Syrian border "for the purpose of halting the illegal transfer of arms and people … [and] have erected check points and increased their presence around positions of armed Palestinian groups to the south of Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley," he said.

Roed-Larsen said that "the government of Syria has informed me that the smuggling of arms and people across the Syrian-Lebanese border does indeed take place, albeit in both directions."

LEBANON ACTING TO RESTRICT INFLUX OF WEAPONS, FIGHTERS

Lebanon also has taken significant measures to restrict the "influx of arms and people and the free movement of weaponry and armed elements to and from the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon in recent weeks," particularly since the end of September, he reported.

On October 7 the Lebanese army raided posts held by Syrian-headquartered Palestinian armed groups in the Bekaa Valley.  During the raid, weapons were seized and the army "detained and deported a number of infiltrators of Palestinian origin who carried Syrian identification documents," Roed-Larsen said.

The Lebanese government has said that it will try to establish order and control armed Palestinian groups inside the refugee camps and called on the Syrian leadership "to practice … the necessary self-restraint through its ties with Palestinian factions."

Discussions between Lebanese authorities and the Palestinian Authority have not led to the disarming of the militias, the U.N. envoy said.  He added that he would continue his efforts in support of this goal.

NO SIGNIFICANT SYRIAN INTELLIGENCE PRESENCE FOUND IN LEBANON

Roed-Larsen said that no visible or significant Syrian intelligence presence remains in Lebanon despite occasional reports suggesting that Syrian intelligence continues to operate in Lebanon and that the Syrian intelligence apparatus continues to influence events in Lebanon.  He said that although some reports were credible, "most were exaggerated."

His U.N. team determined "that it was possible that some Syrian intelligence officers made a few fleeting visits to Lebanon after their withdrawal, and that it is probable that Syrian intelligence officers made telephone calls to maintain networks of contacts, bolster their influence, and subtly manipulate the political environment," the U.N. envoy said.

But the team concluded that telephone calls relating to the Lebanese elections were not widespread and did not appear to have had a significant impact on the elections.

With the withdrawal of Syrian military and intelligence, the Lebanese security and intelligence services need to regain public confidence, Roed-Larsen also said.  "Lebanese authorities have undertaken steps to appoint new permanent, professional directors-general who can enjoy the trust of the public and towards changing personnel, culture, training, and equipment,” he said.

"It will take years to accomplish … but I note that a start has been made," he said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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