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Lubrani at UN for Withdrawal Parley
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By David Rudge

JERUSALEM (May 17) - The government's coordinator on Lebanon, Uri Lubrani, arrived in New York yesterday, apparently for meetings with UN representatives about Israel's decision to withdraw from south Lebanon.

Diplomatic sources confirmed that Lubrani had visited UN headquarters and that his visit appeared to be connected to the upcoming discussions on UNIFIL's future role.

Israel is calling for UNIFIL to immediately deploy in the areas vacated by the IDF and even take over the positions that Israel held there.

Israel also is pressing the international community to guarantee the safety of South Lebanese Army members.

The UN is seeking assurances that the SLA will be disbanded and disarmed of at least its heavy weapons, including artillery pieces, tanks, and armored personnel carriers.

According to some reports, the UN also is calling for the dismantling of the El-Khiyam jail in the security zone and the release of all detainees held there for collaborating with Hizbullah or other hostile elements.

The UN has stated that it would not be able to confirm Israel's withdrawal to the internationally-recognized boundary if the SLA were to remain as a fighting force, because it would still be viewed as an Israeli proxy.

On the other hand, Israel has stated that it will be difficult to disarm the SLA if its members feel they need to protect their homes and families in the absence of internationally-backed guarantees to ensure their safety.

Lubrani is expected to discuss this and other issues relating to the IDF's scheduled withdrawal and the UN's role under Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426, which call on the UN to help restore international peace and security and assist the Lebanese government in reasserting its sovereignty in the region.

The Lebanese, with Syrian backing, are continuing to press their claim to land in the area of Sheba village, in the foothills of Mt. Hermon. The Lebanese government maintains that unless Israel withdraws from this area - which until now has been considered land that might be discussed in peace talks with Syria - it will not have fully withdrawn from Lebanese territory.

So far, the UN apparently has accepted Israel's opinion that the Sheba district was never considered to be Lebanese territory, certainly not under the 1923 boundary. Lebanese newspapers, however, reported that the Lebanese government had sent new documents to the UN which confirmed its territorial claims to the area.

The Lebanese press has also been full of speculation over the possibility of a major French role in an expanded UNIFIL, as well as reports of several countries which have offered to send troops to join the force or expand their existing contingents.

In contrast, Fiji, which has been a member of UNIFIL since its establishment after the Litani Operation in 1978, has reportedly announced that it will remove its troops unless their security can be guaranteed.

UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Seth Kofi Obeng and the force's senior political adviser and spokesman, Timur Goksel, are also at UN headquarters to assist in drawing up plans for the proposed expansion of the force and its future role.

UN special Middle East envoy Terje Larsen has reportedly been ill and this has delayed the submission of the report on the consultations he conducted recently with regional leaders, especially in Israel, Lebanon, and Syria, to Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The report is now expected to be presented to Annan on Wednesday night, after which Annan will have to make his recommendations to the Security Council, which is slated to convene some time next week.

© 2000 Jerusalem Post

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