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Lebanon: Newest UN Resolution Rankles Syria, Hizballah, Iran

Iran's Foreign Minister Mottaki said the resolution violates international law (epa) WASHINGTON, May 25, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- A new UN Security Council resolution notes Syria's negative influence on Lebanese affairs, and it indirectly refers to Iranian influence. Damascus and Tehran -- as well as the radical Islamic group Hizballah -- have criticized the resolution, while it got a mixed reception in Lebanon and Washington welcomed it.

Some of the demands of a previous resolution, such as the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, have already been realized, so it is not unreasonable to expect that aspects of the new one will eventually reach fruition. It is unlikely to be a rapid or smooth process, however, as groups with contending interests are involved.

The U.S. State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, Ambassador Henry Crumpton, announced during a May 23 press conference in Beirut, "I am here to explain aspects of U.S. counterterrorism policy of concern to Lebanese decision-makers, and to answer their questions in detail," Beirut's "The Daily Star" reported on May 24. Crumpton went on to refer to the new Security Council resolution that relates to Lebanon.

Singling Out Hizballah, Syria, Iran

France, Great Britain, and the United States drafted Resolution 1680, and the 15-member Security Council adopted it on May 17, voting 13-0 with Russia and China abstaining.

The resolution builds on Resolution 1559 of 2004, which calls for the disarming of the country's militias. An April 2006 UN report on the implementation of Resolution 1559 noted that Hizballah is "the most significant Lebanese militia," and there has been no "noticeable change" in its capabilities. Hizballah and its supporters argue that it is a resistance organization, rather than a militia, and it therefore does not have to disarm.

In a reference to the military capabilities of institutions that are not under government control, Resolution 1680 states that that the Security Council "called for further efforts to disband and disarm all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias and to fully restore the Lebanese government's control over all its territory."

Resolution 1680 also refers to another part of the April UN report on the implementation of Resolution 1559, which specifically calls for "cooperation of all other relevant parties, including Syria and Iran." According to the new resolution, the Security Council "reiterates also its call on all concerned states and parties as mentioned in the report, to cooperate fully with the government of Lebanon, the Security Council, and the secretary-general to achieve this goal [of implementing 1559]."

Resolution 1680 singles out Damascus, calling on it to resolve border controversies with Beirut, to establish a permanent diplomatic relationship with Beirut, and to control the movement of arms into Lebanon.

"The United States is very pleased with the passage of Resolution 1680," U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said, adding that the resolution refers to the roles of Syria and Iran in Lebanon's stability. "It makes clear that the burden is now on Syria to respond to Lebanon's request for border delineation and the full exchange of diplomatic relations. It clearly says to Syria that it needs to do more to stop the flow of weapons across the Syrian-Lebanese border."

'International Interference'

Damascus, on the other hand, dismissed Resolution 1680. An official Syrian Foreign Ministry statement on May 17 said the resolution's discussion of border demarcation and Damascus-Beirut diplomatic ties is a form of interference in member states' bilateral affairs, SANA reported. It added that the two countries are already discussing border issues and complained that the report does not note the positive things Syria has done. Damascus went on to complain of Israeli violations of the Lebanese border, and it questioned the resolution's failure to mention them.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said at a May 18 press conference in Damascus that Resolution 1680 is against international law and represents international interference in bilateral Damascus-Beirut relations, SANA reported.

The same day, Mottaki met with Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas Political Bureau chief Khalid Mish'al, according to IRNA.

Deflecting Attention From Israel

Hizballah -- considered by many Western countries a terrorist organization -- also reacted angrily to the resolution. A statement read out on Hizballah's Al-Manar television on May 18 complained that Resolution 1680 did not mention Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty. It also viewed the resolution as an effort to create tension between Syria and Lebanon.

Four days later, legislator Muhammad Raad, who heads the pro-Hizballah Loyalty to the Resistance bloc in the Lebanese parliament, denounced the resolution, Al-Manar reported. "Why are ties with Syria strained?" Raad asked. "Because some wanted to decrease the level of enmity towards Israel, so they embodied Syria as the new enemy." He went on to say that the resolution will not affect Hizballah's arms, "The Daily Star" reported on May 23.

It is too early to see any results from the latest Security Council resolution, but U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seems optimistic. Regarding Hizballah's disarmament, she said the Lebanese are aware of their "obligations," Al-Arabiyah television reported on May 23. "I believe that they will indeed undertake those obligations and those obligations include the disarming of militias." But Rice also preached patience, saying: "this is a transitional period and we understand that. And so allowing Lebanon to work on this is very important."