JERUSALEM (Jun. 18)
Lebanon is rejecting a United Nations finding that Israeli forces have withdrawn completely from Lebanese soil. Lebanon’s stance initially prompted the U.N. Security Council to delay endorsing Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s finding that Israel is now in full compliance with a 1978 Security Council resolution.
But after much back and forth Sunday, the council decided to make the endorsement.
The council — in a nod to Russia, which presented the Lebanese view during the Security Council’s deliberations — also acknowledged that there may have been some violations of the border since last Friday, when Annan confirmed that Israel had withdrawn to the international border.
Earlier in the day, Russia’s attempts to block the council from issuing the endorsement angered other diplomats, who accused Russia of working with Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon.
The Security Council did not need Lebanon’s agreement, but without it, the United Nations would not have acted on plans to station peacekeepers in the region that Israel evacuated last month.
Israel considers the presence of such peacekeepers, along with the Lebanese military, crucial to bringing security to the area, which is now under the control of Hezbollah gunmen.
For its part, Hezbollah has threatened to renew attacks against Israel if the Jewish state does not withdraw from territory that Lebanon is claiming.
Annan, who is currently visiting several countries in the Middle East, was slated to visit Lebanon on Monday and discuss the situation with Lebanese leaders.
He downplayed the disagreement between Lebanon, describing it on Sunday as “a hiccup that will be overcome.”
Israel welcomed Annan’s finding, adding that it expected U.N. peacekeepers and the Lebanese army to take up positions in the area vacated by the Israeli army. Lebanon has dispatched security forces to the area, but has yet to deploy any army troops there.