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Lebanon still 'fragile' despite Israel-Hizbollah ceasefire, says UN political chief

9 July 2008 – While the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah has held up since the passage of the Security Council resolution that ended their 2006 conflict, the situation in Lebanon remains “fairly fragile,” the United Nations political chief said today.

“My main message today was that while the ceasefire has been holding, there still is a lot of work there to do,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told reporters after he briefed the Council on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent report on the implementation of resolution 1701.

That resolution also calls for renewed respect for the Blue Line separating Israeli and Lebanese forces, the disarming of militias and an end to arms smuggling, among other measures.

Mr. Pascoe noted that the fighting in May between pro- and anti-Government militias, as well as the clashes that took place today in Tripoli, are indications of the fragile nature of the situation in the country.

“We would urge them to move as quickly as possible to fulfilling the requirements of the Doha agreement,” Mr. Pascoe said, referring to the accord reached in late May which helped break Lebanon’s political deadlock by paving the way for the election of a new president and the establishment of a national unity cabinet.

In his report, Mr. Ban expressed serious concern about the presence of “unidentified armed elements” in the area of operations of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), along with restrictions on the Force’s movement and the monitoring of its operations.

In this regard, Mr. Pascoe welcomed President Michel Suleiman’s efforts to move forward with the disarmament of militias, a key element of 1701, and stressed the need for neighbouring countries and others to abide by the arms embargo imposed by the resolution.

On “the very important” Syrian-Lebanese relations, Mr. Pascoe said he was encouraged by the indications that diplomatic relations could soon be established. In addition, he commended the Lebanese Government’s efforts to increase security on the border.

“We are very pleased with the recent movement on humanitarian aspects of 1701,” Mr. Pascoe added, referring to the Israeli Government’s recent decision that involves the return of two abducted Israeli soldiers and a solution to the cases of Lebanese prisoners held in Israel. “We call on all sides to faithfully carry out those commitments,” he added.

The Secretary-General, in his report, had indicated his willingness to intensify his efforts to find a solution to the question of the Shab’a Farms area.

“The question of ownership is one for the Security Council and the parties concerned,” Mr. Pascoe noted today. “What we have said is that we will certainly intensify our efforts on this but this is something that can’t be imposed.”

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