10/31/2006, 00.00
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UN renews calls for militia disarmament in tormented Lebanon

by Paul Dakiki

The concern of the Security Council comes at a time when the political situation is extremely strained, with Hezbollah putting pressure on the pro-Western government of Siniora. Cardinal Sfeir is set to meet Berri and Aoun.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The UN Security Council is calling once again for the disarmament of "Lebanese and non Lebanese" militias operating in the Country of the Cedars. Meanwhile, Hezbollah says it will use "all democratic means possible" to bring down the Siniora government. In the background, the President of the Republic, Emile Lahoud, considered to be pro-Syrian, has reservations about the international tribunal that should judge political assassinations, starting from the killing of Rafic Hariri – in which Syria was involved – and charges have been leveled against him by the majority and Druze parties. And then there is the invitation from the Iranian President Ahmadinejad – a backer, together with Syria, of Hezbollah – to Lahoud to go to Iran, to say nothing of the alarm voiced by Condoleezza Rice about the danger of anti-government political attacks in Beirut, with related mistrust of Damascus.

The Lebanese situation is becoming more and more complex; it is on the brink of political paralysis amid a tangle of internal and international factors that are mutually influential. A statement of the United Nations Security Council that talked about progress in the application of Resolution 1559, especially as regards the deployment of the Lebanese army in the south of the country after an absence of nearly three decades, also underlined "regret" about the fact the militia disarmament had not been implemented.

Far from being disarmed, Hezbollah is pressing ahead with a political offensive aimed at bringing down the pro-Western government of Fouad Siniora. The head of the parliamentary group of the Party of God, Mohammed Raad, said he "will use all democratic and juridical means to obtain the formation of a government of national unity", including street rallies. What this formula means is the formation of a cabinet where Hezbollah enjoys more clout than its current representation of two ministers. For the "enemies" of Hezbollah, this would lead to the return of Syrian (and Iranian) influence, and would guarantee that Beirut does not attempt to apply that part of the UN resolution tackling militia disarmament. Moreover, the refusal to lay down its arms is justified by Hezbollah by the fact that Israel is still occupying "Lebanese territory", that is, the Sheeba Farms. This land consists of around 20 square km under the Golan Heights and it has been claimed by Lebanon, Israel and for a certain time, by Syria too. The UN is examining maps and papers to determine who the land belongs to.

In this context, the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, head of the Shiite movement called Amal, has so far been unsuccessful in his attempts to re-launch the "Inter-Lebanese dialogue" that before the war had gathered representatives of the country's 14 largest political forces around the same table. In this scenario, a meeting has been announced for this week between Berri and the Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir. The latter, in his homily last Sunday, denounced the intent of "certain parties" to bring Lebanon back under Syrian "guardianship". Within days, Cardinal Sfeir should also meet Michel Aoun. Relations between the two deteriorated after Aoun, a Maronite Christian, backed Hezbollah demands for a government of national unity.

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See also
Welch leaves Beirut confirming US support for Siniora and international tribunal
Sfeir: time to end Hezbollah sit-in in Beirut
Sec of State Rice snubs Syria
A country in mourning looks to the future with anxiety
Sixth minister steps down as opposition goes all out to topple Siniora


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