UNITED NATIONS (Sep. 24)
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Vernon Walters, said Wednesday that he abstained from voting on a Security Council resolution calling for Israel’s withdrawal from the south Lebanon security zone because the resolution made no provisions for security arrangements acceptable to all parties.
The resolution approved Tuesday evening by a 14-0 vote with one (U.S.) abstention, called for “an end in south Lebanon to any military presence not accepted by the Lebanese authorities” and deployment of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) southward to the Israel-Lebanon border.
It was promptly denounced by Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir as “the height of absurdity” and he made clear that Israel is not about to comply. The vote followed a Security Council debate on the situation in south Lebanon convened last Friday at the request of France.
WALTERS EXPLAINS HIS ABSTENTION
Walters, explaining his abstention, said the resolution focussed exclusively on the redeployment of UNIFIL while ignoring the critical factor which was the absence of agreement among the parties concerned on security arrangements that would respect all interests.
He said that measures must be agreed on by the parties concerned, otherwise the level of suspicion and mistrust would be increased.
Walters added that he regretted he could not vote on a resolution raised by an ally as close as France. Observers here, noting that the U.S. in the past has almost invariably voted against — and thereby vetoed — Security Council resolutions unacceptable to Israel, suggested that the American abstention in this instance was a case of not wanting to off end the French.
The resolution gives UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar 21 days in which to “make the necessary arrangements for a deployment of the (UNIFIL) force to the southern border of Lebanon. It solemnly calls on all the parties concerned to cooperate in the achievement of that objective.”
Although the two-paragraph resolution did not mention Israel by name, it contained a clear reference to Israel’s control of a security zone some six miles deep north of Israel’s border with Lebanon. The zone was established by Israel when it withdrew its forces from Lebanon in June 1985.
The resolution was approved after France asked the UN to compel the evacuation of Israel and the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) from the zone and allow the deployment of UNIFIL to the international border.
The French contingent of UNIFIL is the largest of the multinational force, consisting of 1,391 troops out of a total of 5,827. It has suffered serious casualties in recent weeks under attack by Shiite Moslem extremists. Walters remarked in that connection that “One thing is quite clear. It is not Israel that is killing and wounding the soldiers” of UNIFIL.
A report to the Security Council, issued last Friday, held Israel responsible for UNIFIL’s vulnerability because it refuses to allow UNIFIL to be deployed along its border with Lebanon.
In the Security Council debate that followed, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Binyamin Netanyahu, strongly defended the south Lebanon security zone and declared that if it did not exist “south Lebanon and northern Israel would again face an intolerable situation. A terrible violence would again be unleashed.”
Shamir, who arrived here Tuesday to attend the 41st session of the General Assembly, left no doubt that Israel will not abandon the security zone. He said the Security Council resolution is “the height of absurdity,” because Israel and UNIFIL are in effect “on the same side,” both fighting extremists in south Lebanon such as the Iran-inspired Hezbullah.
At a briefing for Israeli journalists here Wednesday, Shamir’s press spokesman, Avi Pazner, said Shamir made the same point at meetings Wednesday with the Foreign Ministers of Finland and Ireland, two countries that provide troops for UNIFIL. Pazner said Shamir told Finnish Foreign Minister Paavo Vayrynen that “We won’t pay the price for UNIFIL to stay in Lebanon and we will not allow any redeployment of UNIFIL to the south. We have to protect our security interests, but Israel has an interest in UNIFIL remaining in its present positions.”
Shamir also said he was angered by the attacks on UNIFIL. He stressed that Israel had not invited it into Lebanon but would not want to see it leave. Shamir said much the same thing to the Irish Foreign Minister, Peter Barry, Pazner said.