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UN Security Council backs Lebanon peace deal
US, UK reject view that show of force by Hizbullah in this month's fighting increased its power, despite greater influence it gained in country's cabinet

The UN Security Council on Thursday welcomed a Lebanese peace deal brokered by Qatar, an agreement that may have averted a new civil war in the Middle East.

 

The council said it "welcomes and strongly supports the agreement reached in Doha ...which constitutes an essential step towards the resolution of the current crisis, the return to normal functioning of Lebanese democratic institutions, the complete restoration of Lebanon's unity and stability."

 

In the nonbinding statement, the council also urged the parties to implement all aspects of the agreement.

 

The statement was supported by the United States and France in a bid to resolve the political crisis in Lebanon and obtain a lull.

 

Earlier Thursday, the United States and Britain said they believed Hizbullah had been weakened by this month's fighting in Beirut despite the greater influence the militant group gained in Lebanon's cabinet.

 

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband rejected the view that the show of force by Hizbullah had increased its power.

 

"Hizbullah lost something very important, which is any argument that it is somehow a resistance movement on behalf of the Lebanese people," Rice told reporters traveling with her and Miliband on a trip to her California hometown.

 

"What it is, is a militia that, given an opportunity, decided to turn its guns on its own people. It is never going to live that down," she said.

 

Arab-mediated deal

Hizbullah won concessions in an Arab-mediated deal reached on Wednesday, including a long-standing demand for veto power in the cabinet. The deal also resolved a dispute over a law for holding 2009 parliamentary elections, forming a new government and the election of a president, expected on Sunday.

 

Analysts, however, said the agreement was a clear defeat for Western-backed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government and demonstrated Hizbullah strength on the ground.

 

Miliband said Hizbullah had shown an "unacceptable" show of force in the streets which created an "illusion" of its power. More than 80 people were killed in the military campaign by Hizbullah amid fears of a return to full-scale civil war.

 

"What struck us in subsequent days is that the reaction of the people of Lebanon has been very negative about that. The guns of Hizbullah were trained on their own people. The long term consequences of that are potentially going to strengthen the forces of democracy in Lebanon," said Miliband.

 

The Bush administration, which labels Hizbullah a terrorist group, has put a favorable face on the agreement despite the concessions given to Hizbullah and has publicly praised the Arab role in getting the deal.

 

Rice said the United States was supportive of the Arab League's role and dismissed any suggestion that the United States was somehow losing its influence in the region.

 

"This is not the first time that the Arab states have taken on Lebanon without the participation of Europe and the United States," she said.

 

Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to this report

 


First published: 22.05.08, 22:21
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