UNITED NATIONS (Jul. 31)
The U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday “condemning unequivocally all acts of hostage-taking and abduction.”
The resolution “demands the immediate and safe release of all hostages and abducted persons” and urges all nations to use their political influence to expedite the release of hostages.
The Security Council voted 15-0 to approve the resolution, which was co-sponsored by Finland and Canada.
The move came as aides to U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar issued a statement expressing his “outrage and revulsion” at the announcement by an Islamic fundamentalist group in Lebanon that it had hanged U.S. Lt. Col. William Higgins.
Higgins headed the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in Lebanon before he was kidnapped in February 1988 by the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth. The group is believed to be affiliated with the fundamentalist Hezbollah, or Party of God.
The group said it had killed Higgins in retaliation for Israel’s capture of its leader, Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid.
Officials here maintained the timing of the Security Council resolution on hostage-taking was unrelated to either the Israeli capture of Obeid or the reported hanging of Higgins.
ISRAELI OPERATION CRITICIZED
A Canadian spokesman said the resolution had been composed by the two countries several months ago, introduced to the Security Council members on June 22 and scheduled for a Security Council vote this week, long before the Israeli operation.
Both the content of the resolution and its adoption Monday were “in no way influenced by recent events,” the spokesman said.
“There is a most tragic irony that our efforts to adopt a text on this matter should have coincided with the grave events of recent days,” Security Council President Dragoslav Pejic of Yugoslavia said during the morning meeting.
In his statement, Perez de Cuellar said he hoped reports of Higgins’ death were false.
“If the reports can, however, be confirmed,” the statement said, “the secretary-general can only express his outrage and revulsion at the fact that an innocent man serving the United Nations in the cause of peace should be murdered in this fashion.”
In earlier statements made over the weekend, Perez de Cuellar urged the release of all hostages in the Middle East. He included a call for the release of Obeid and two other Hezbollah members captured by Israel on Friday.
The secretary-general said the seizure of the Hezbollah members “constitutes a violation of Lebanese sovereignty and can only heighten tension in an already volatile area.”
In a separate action Monday afternoon, the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon for another six months.
In recommending the renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate, Perez de Cuellar cited both stepped-up attempts by “armed elements” in southern Lebanon to infiltrate Israel and increased attacks on Lebanese targets by the Israeli air force.