By David Rudge and David Zev Harris
JERUSALEM (April 28) - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to convene the Security Council next month to decide on peacekeeping efforts in south Lebanon after the IDF's July pullout.
Western diplomatic sources said yesterday Annan would by then have received a full report from his special envoy, Terje Larsen, on his current visit to the region.
Annan is to recommend how the UN will fulfill its mandate in south Lebanon, including helping to restore peace and stability in accordance with Security Council Resolution 425 of 1978.
Larsen - accompanied by senior UNIFIL officers and officials, cartographers, lawyers, and experts from UN headquarters in New York - met last night with Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, following lengthy talks earlier in the day with Foreign Minister David Levy.
The sources said these were the first of a series of meetings that Larsen is scheduled to have with leaders in the region, including government officials in Damascus, Amman, and Cairo. The latter is to be his last port of call and from there he is scheduled to fly back to UN headquarters on May 10 to submit his report to Annan.
Larsen agreed to report back to Barak and Levy on his other meetings in the region.
Israeli and UN cartographers are today to begin work on determining the exact location of Israel's northern border after the withdrawal. Legal experts will also be meeting as the two parties attempt to work out final terms for the withdrawal.
During his meetings with Barak and Levy, it is understood Larsen was asked to consider increasing the UNIFIL presence in south Lebanon from 4,000 troops to some 7,000, in order to fill the void that will be created by an IDF pullback. US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke told the Security Council yesterday there will be no choice but to beef up UN forces in Lebanon after the IDF pullout.
In Jerusalem, yesterday morning's security cabinet meeting also focused on the withdrawal from Lebanon, with senior IDF officers offering a series of withdrawal scenarios. No decisions were understood to have been taken, however.
In their meeting, Barak told Larsen that Israel's decision to get out of Lebanon will be in accordance with Resolution 425. Barak added that Israel would respect the sovereignty of Lebanon without harming its right of self-defense, a Defense Ministry statement said.
Barak also repeated Israel's obligation to aid members of the SLA and noted that a solution for most of the SLA forces would be found on Lebanese territory.
Defense officials said Larsen passed on to Barak Annan's appreciation for Israel's decision. Israel Radio reported last night that Larsen asked Israel either to remove all mines it has laid in the security zone or provide maps of its mine fields to safeguard UN troops.
Before his meeting with Larsen at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Levy told reporters Israel is "very satisfied" with the international reaction to the government's decision to withdraw from Lebanon, even without a peace deal with Beirut or Damascus.
Levy told Larsen that Hizbullah is not only an enemy of Israel, but also of Lebanon and the UN, and it prefers chaos to peace.
He stressed the importance of coordination with all the relevant bodies in order to allow the speedy and effective implementation of the UN resolution.
Accompanied by UNIFIL commander Maj.- Gen. Seth Kofi Obeng, Larsen said he hopes the withdrawal will prove to be the beginning of a comprehensive peace in the region.
Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss yesterday appeared to backtrack on comments he made Wednesday indicating his country would welcome the deployment of an international peacekeeping force in areas vacated by the IDF.
Hoss's original remarks created something of a stir and led to pressure primarily from Syria - the main power broker in Lebanon - for a clarification to be made, which was duly forthcoming.
In his latest statement, Hoss stressed that everything related to UNIFIL and its proposed replacement of the IDF is subject to the consent of the Lebanese government. He also made it clear that Lebanon continues to refuse any security arrangements with Israel as a prior condition for the IDF withdrawal.
Furthermore, Lebanon is under no circumstances prepared to act as a border guard for Israel and would hold Israel fully responsible for "any disruptions that might occur on the border after the withdrawal," he said. "Lebanon adheres to all UN resolutions, especially 425, and therefore calls on Israel to withdraw fully and unconditionally to the international border line of 1923."
Hoss said the people of Lebanon should be excited and proud about the "historic change awaiting Lebanon and they should feel confident about their fate. Lebanon has a date with a return to stability, security, and prosperity."
In a separate matter, Hizbullah yesterday announced that one of its gunmen had been killed in the IAF's raid in the Jabl Izkan region, in the eastern sector, north of the security zone.
(Arieh O'Sullivan and news agencies contributed to this story.)
© Jerusalem Post