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Lebanon Rejects UN Pullout Verification
By Marilyn Henry, David Rudge, and News Agencies

JERUSALEM (June 18) - Lebanon yesterday rejected the UN's verification Friday that the IDF had withdrawn from Lebanon in full compliance with Security Council Resolution 425.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had earlier confirmed the IDF withdrawal as having been in full compliance with Security Council Resolution 425

Meanwhile, Hizbullah warned it would resume attacks if Israel does not give up the land still claimed by Lebanon.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak welcomed the UN declaration and said the government expects the UN to help keep peace along the northern border.

Despite the official verification, work continued yesterday on moving part of the Pa'amonit outpost, north of Moshav Dovev, which was jutting into Lebanese territory. UN officials were present when the IDF dismantled the section in question. The officials then marked the completion of the withdrawal by painting in blue the metal rods and rocks marking the border.

The peacefulness of the transition was marred last night, when a Lebanese man was lightly wounded by IDF soldiers firing warning shots to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators, who had congregated on the Lebanese side by the former Good Fence crossing point, just north of Metulla.

Security sources said dozens of Lebanese provocateurs hurled stones, burning rags, and other objects at soldiers guarding the Israeli side of the border. Demonstrator Khalil Shaumar was reportedly hit by a ricochet. The disturbances later died down.

Some security elements have expressed concern that the frequent stone-throwing incidents, almost a daily occurrence since the IDF withdrawal last month, could get out of hand unless action is taken to curb the instigators. Many are believed to be Palestinians.

In a statement yesterday, Hizbullah described Annan's announcement as "unrealistic and premature," saying it favors Israel.

"We regret that the United Nations has become a cover for the continuation of the Zionists' occupation of parts of Lebanese territory," the statement said. "All violations should be dealt with; ... otherwise we consider the mission of liberating Lebanese territory to be incomplete and resistance remains our choice to liberate the last inch of our occupied land."

The statement came a day after Annan arrived in Morocco, en route to a scheduled visit to Lebanon tomorrow.

Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss also disagreed with Annan's announcement.

"With deep regret, it appeared by Friday evening that Israel has not yet withdrawn from all Lebanese territory," Hoss said in Beirut. There are "several" Israeli military posts that constitute "a flagrant act of encroachment," he said.

Annan's envoy, Terje Larsen, said Lebanon had "respected" the confirmation, although differences of opinion remain.

After Hoss's statement, Larsen called Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and clarified some border issues that Lebanon had raised, UN deputy spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said in New York.

On Friday, Annan told reporters: "I am delighted to tell you that the United Nations force in Lebanon has today reported to me that Israel has withdrawn from the country, in full compliance with Security Council Resolution 425.

"The people of Lebanon have waited more than 22 years for this moment. We must all admire the fortitude with which they have borne this long ordeal. This is a happy day for Lebanon, but also for Israel," Annan said. "It is a day of hope for the Middle East as a whole."

Annan said he hoped that the implementation of Resolution 425 "will be seen by all the peoples in the region - especially Syrians, Palestinians, and Israelis, as well as Lebanese - as an encouragement to move ahead faster in negotiating peace treaties based on earlier Security Council resolutions.

"This is not the end of the long road toward peace in the region, but I hope it will be seen as the beginning of the end," he said.

Barak's office said he had spoken by telephone with Annan before the declaration was made and that they discussed possible future scenarios for the border area. US Secretary of State Madeline Albright also called Barak to congratulate him on the UN decision, his office said.

Israel's UN charge d'affaires, Aaron Jacob, said Jerusalem regrets Lebanon's statement.

"We hope that they change their minds," Jacob said in an interview in New York on Friday.

"Lebanon and Syria are advocating international legitimacy," Jacob said."They use it as a principle that should guide international relations. The report of the secretary-general reflects international legitimacy, so they have to live up to the principles they are advocating."

Only hours earlier, Larsen had told reporters that Lebanon had recognized the announcement.

"Included in the secretary-general's [confirmation] report is a statement made by the government of Lebanon, which we very clearly interpret in such a way that Lebanon will respect the decision of the United Nations as concerns the Israeli withdrawal," Larsen said Friday at a news conference at the UN.

The Security Council convened last night to endorse Annan's report. Its endorsement would trigger an enhanced contribution of troops to UNIFIL. The existing battalions in Lebanon are quickly to be increased from about 4,400 to 5,600 troops. Ultimately, some 8,000 peacekeepers would be in Lebanon, Larsen said.

"The force [UNIFIL] within the first two weeks of next month will reach 5,600, and we feel confident that that number can handle the challenge of redeploying UNIFIL throughout the area of south Lebanon," he said.

But UN spokesman Timur Goksel said yesterday that no peacekeepers will be deployed before matters are sorted out with the Lebanese government, possibly during talks tomorrow with Annan.

When asked about the delay in confirming the Israeli withdrawal, Larsen said that "90 percent even more of the problems we encountered on both sides were of a practical nature and not of a political nature."

It had been complicated both to identify a withdrawal line that conformed to the international boundaries of Lebanon, "and even more complicated to transform that line from a line on the map to a line on the ground."

The demarcation involved two borders - one between Israel and Lebanon, and one between Lebanon and Syria. For the purpose of the Israeli withdrawal, Larsen said the UN used the dividing line between UNIFIL and the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights.

According to Larsen, there are about 1,000 Lebanese security troops deployed in the south, about half of whom are from the army.

"There is actually a security presence in every village in the south," he said.

(Danna Harman contributed to this report.)

© Jerusalem Post 2000

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