Photo: AP
Zalmay Khalilzad
Photo: AP
Photo: Reuters
Bashar Ja'afari
Photo: Reuters

US accuses Syria, Iran of playing negative role in Lebanon

American ambassador to UN tells Security Council there is clear evidence of arms smuggling across Syrian border to terrorist groups, condemns ‘all efforts to destabilize Lebanon’

The US accused Syria and Iran on Wednesday of playing a negative role in Lebanon and said there is clear evidence of arms smuggling across the Syrian border to terrorist groups.


US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad made the accusations after a closed Security Council meeting to discuss progress on a UN resolution that ended last summer's war between Israel and the Iran and Syria-backed Hizbullah.


Khalilzad said the US had sent a clear message in the meeting on "the negative role that Syria and Iran are playing and called on them to cease and desist from their negative activities" in Lebanon.


"We also made it clear that we condemn all efforts to destabilize Lebanon and expressed particular concern with regard to the arms transfers that are taking place particularly across the Syrian border," Khalilzad told reporters after the session.


Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari dismissed allegations that arms were being smuggled across his country's border with neighboring Lebanon.


"We denied it many times and we are still denying it," he told reporters after the meeting.


A UN-appointed team that assessed the border reported late last month that security was too lax to prevent arms smuggling. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon urged Syria and Iran to do more to prevent arms smuggling into Lebanon, citing Lebanese and Israeli government allegations of violations of the UN arms embargo.


Khalilzad said there was clear evidence of "arms transfers to terrorist groups" inside Lebanon.


"There is evidence of preparations by groups such as Fatah al-Islam, preparations by groups such as PFLP-General Command that is also carrying out some preparations for attacks. There are arms that are coming in for Hizbullah," he said.


Weapons transfers to Hizbullah are banned under the UN resolution that ended the 34-day war.


'We are entering a more difficult period'

Ja'afari claimed the information about arms smuggling provided to the Security Council came only from Israeli intelligence and none of it was from Lebanese authorities.


However, UN Mideast envoy Michael Williams said "virtually all" of the arms smuggling documented in the secretary-general's report to the Security Council last month came from the Lebanese government or Lebanese security agencies.


"I think the situation is very serious," he told reporters.


Syria dominated Lebanon for nearly three decades. But in 2005, it was forced to withdraw its tens of thousands of troops from the neighboring country amid an uproar over allegations that Damascus played a role in the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri. Syria denied it.


Williams lamented that the United Nations hasn't been able to secure the release of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah in the incident that triggered the war one year ago.


"I bitterly regret that. I regret also that we've not even been able to establish proof of life," he said.


Asked whether he believed the two Israelis were still alive, he said he couldn't answer the question.


He said the UN has had some 20 meetings with high-ranking Hizbullah figures on freeing the soldiers and although at times the talks seemed on the verge of collapse, it was notable that the militant group seemed interested in continuing them. He said talks had been held as recently as the last few days.


"I would hope that Hizbullah would take note of today's proceedings and heed the call, at least as an interim step, to render proof of life of the soldiers," he said.


Williams said he anticipated bigger challenges ahead for stabilizing Lebanon, saying "I think we are entering a more difficult period."


He specifically mentioned the demarcation of the section of the Lebanese border around the disputed Shebaa Farms and said Syria wasn't cooperating with UN requests to provide some historical records on that issue.


Shebaa Farms was captured by Israel when its forces seized Syria's Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war. The UN has determined the area is Syrian. But Lebanon claims it - a claim backed by Syria - and Hizbullah argues that Israel's occupation of the area justifies its continued "resistance."


Ja'afari said Syria will discuss the border demarcation around Shebaa Farms with Lebanon only after Israel returns all of the territory it captured from Syria in 1967. 


פרסום ראשון: 07.19.07, 07:40
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