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Lahoud: Israel's withdrawal incomplete if it is based on "fictitious" U.N. line

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June 17, 2000 


ABBASSIYEH GATE, Lebanon, (AP) - Lebanon will consider Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon incomplete if it is based on a "fictitious" U.N.-drawn border that Lebanon contends has been misplaced, President Emile Lahoud said Friday.


"We will consider the Israeli withdrawal to be incomplete if it is confined to a fictitious, non-existing line that does not reach the existing internationally-recognized frontier," said a statement issued by Lahoud's office.


The statement, released just days before an expected visit by U.N.-Secretary General Kofi Annan, underlines the remaining disputes even as a U.N. team nears final verification of Israel's May 24 withdrawal. U.N. peacekeepers will be deployed at the 72-mile (116-kilometer) border when verification is complete.


Lebanon has protested to the United Nations that the newly drawn frontier has been misplaced in some points, awarding Israel small tracts of land.


In a memorandum sent to Annan earlier this week, Lahoud said U.N. cartographers had rejected "an existing and recognized border to establish in its place a fictitious withdrawal line to be used as the basis for confirmation of the Israeli pullout."


On Friday, the president said Lebanon's internationally-recognized border "is not up for modification or postponement" of its final demarcation.


U.N. cartographers have drawn the border according to the line fixed in 1923 by colonial France and Britain.


Verification work along the border resumed Friday, a day after Israeli soldiers fired warning shots at a U.N. team at the

Abbassiyeh gate, forcing a suspension of the work.


Israel apologized to the United Nations for the shooting, saying it was a mistake.


U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Thursday he hoped the task of demarcating the border would be complete Friday.


In a separate development, the government, in an evening session Thursday, authorized the creation of a strike force of 1,000 army and police troops to maintain security in areas vacated by the Israeli army in south Lebanon.


The force, which will include 500 army soldiers, represents the first firm step by the government to take control of the area, where anti-Israeli guerrillas have moved in to fill the vacuum left by Israel's pullout and the collapse of its allied militia.



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