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Kofi Annan urges Israel to respect border with Lebanon

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June 20, 2000 

  

CAIRO, (AP) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak early Monday to urge him to respect the U.N.-certified border with Lebanon.

 

The U.N. Security Council on Sunday certified Israeli's withdrawal from Lebanon, but expressed concern about Lebanese reports of Israeli border violations. Annan told reporters in Cairo that he spoke with Barak Monday about "the need for everybody to respect the line."

 

Annan gave no other details and did not say whether he also had called Lebanese officials. The secretary-general, on a Middle East swing, flew later Monday to Lebanon, where he was to inspect the border himself in the afternoon. He was due in Israel on Wednesday.

 

The Security Council's stamp of approval on the Israeli withdrawal was held up for two days by Lebanon's complaints that Israeli troops remained on part of its territory.

 

Russia, in support of Lebanon, had refused to back the endorsement until Sunday, when it supported a resolution confirming Annan's conclusions that the withdrawal had been completed.

 

In brief comments to reporters in Cairo after a morning meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Annan urged both Israel and Lebanon to respect the line that the United Nations has laid out. He said some encroachment had been noted as U.N. teams marked the border, and the teams "did require Israel to withdraw" from those areas.

 

He said if Israeli troops "do cross the line it is a violation that the peacekeepers will have to report to the Security Council and to myself and we will try to get the Israelis to pull back."

 

Council affirmation of the Israeli withdrawal was vital for the next stage: deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force and - it is hoped - a move by Lebanon's government to impose control over the area, now under the de facto control of Hezbollah guerrillas.

 

In Cairo Sunday night, Annan said Lebanon should begin asserting its authority in the south, adding that some of the countries that are planning to send troops for the U.N. force "are insisting that Lebanon should also deploy."

 

The Lebanese government had rejected Annan's conclusion that Israel had completely pulled back behind the border determined by U.N. experts, complaining that Israel has been using roads on its side of the frontier. Israel is building a border fence and has equipment going back and forth, according to diplomats.

      

After a 10-hour marathon session Saturday and a six-hour session Sunday, the Security Council agreed on a resolution that endorsed Annan's conclusion that Israel had withdrawn its forces as of June 16. But it also noted "with serious concern" reports of violations of the withdrawal since then.

 

Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978 and occupied part of southern Lebanon as a buffer against guerrilla attacks on northern Israel from 1985 until its withdrawal on May 24.

 

Under 1978 Security Council resolutions, U.N. peacekeeping troops were charged with verifying any Israeli pullout. They are then authorized to help the Lebanese army restore security and authority in the border zone.

 

Hezbollah, which fought Israeli troops for years in the zone, warned Saturday that it would resume attacks on Israel's north if the Jewish state does not give up tracts of land claimed by Lebanon.

 

The council statement stressed that the primary responsibility for ensuring "law and order" in southern Lebanon rests with the Lebanese army. It asks the secretary-general to report by July 31 on actions taken to implement the 1978 U.N. resolutions, especially by the Lebanese government, and says it will then review the mandate of the U.N. peacekeepers.

 

The 4,500-strong U.N. force is being expanded to 5,600 next month, and Annan has asked for a further increase to nearly 8,000.

 


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