Lebanon's political stalemate hurts disarmament, border security

( dpa ) - Lebanon's failure to choose a head of state since November has hampered efforts at disarming warring parties and securing borders with neighbouring states, the United Nations said Friday in a progress report on the situation in that country.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in the report to the UN Security Council that Lebanon has been in "the grip of intense political crisis" since November, 2007, when the presidency was vacated. The fighting political parties have been unable to agree on a successor to Emile Lahout, known as a pro-Syrian politician.

The stalemate has been aggravated by "regional interests intermingled with Lebanese internal dynamics," Ban said.

The report dealt with the ceasefire resolution that ended the brief war between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. The UN peacekeeping force and the Lebanese army were mandated to monitor an arms embargo in southern Lebanon and borders with Syria, and disarm Hezbollah.

The report said reports and Hezbollah's public statements pointed to breaches of the arms embargo "in serious violations" of the ceasefire resolution 1701 of 2006.

"All member states in the region, in particular the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran, have a key responsibility in this regard," the report said. "Such violations risk further destabilizing Lebanon and the whole region."

The report criticized Israel's jet fighters for air violations of resolution 1701 "without any regard for the levels of tension and anger that these actions trigger on the ground." The repeated Iraeli violations undermined the work of the UN peacekeepers and Lebanese army on the ground.

It said Syria shares the responsibility in controlling borders with Lebanon following reports of continued arms smuggling across the borders.

Israel informed the UN last year that Hezbollah had re-armed since the 2006 war, claiming that the pro-Iranian militants now have an arsenal of 10,000 long-range rockets, and 20,000 short-range rockets deployed both and south of the Litani River. Hezbollah has denied the charge.

"While the disarmament of armed groups remains a central issue of the political debate in Lebanon, I regret that the persistent deterioration of the political climate and the prolonged deadlock have not been conducive to addressing the issue meaningfully at the national level," Ban said in the report.

The UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, now as 12,700 military personnel from 28 countries. In addition a naval force off Lebanon has been patrolling the coasts to implement the arms embargo.

Germany, which commanded the naval force in the past 17 months, handed over the leadership to Italy on Friday.

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