UN chief calls for improved security in Lebanon

October 18, 2008 - 0:0

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -– Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised improving ties between Lebanon and Syria, but called on the two countries to take further steps to bolster security along their border.

The secretary-general's six-month report to the UN Security Council, obtained by The Associated Press, focused on the country's progress in holding presidential elections, but underscored the immediate danger of armed groups.
""Over the last six months, Lebanon has experienced both the ruinous effects of sectarian violence and hope and optimism,"" he said in the report.
""I applaud the historical steps that have been taken so far by Presidents Suleiman and Al-Assad,"" he said. ""For the first time since their independence, the two neighboring states are establishing diplomatic relations.""
The foreign ministers of Syria and Lebanon signed a document Wednesday formalizing diplomatic ties between the two countries for the first time in their turbulent history.
The signing comes a day after Syrian President Bashar Assad issued a decree establishing diplomatic relations with its smaller neighbor — a long-standing demand of the West and Lebanese politicians opposed to Syria's influence in the country.
The two countries have not had formal diplomatic relations since both gained independence from France in the 1940s in an arrangement that many Lebanese viewed as a result of Syria's refusal to recognize Lebanese sovereignty.
Ban said Lebanese President Michel Suleiman's election on May 25 ""represented a significant step forward,"" but said ""I remain concerned by the political assassinations and explosions that continue to plague Lebanon.""
In the report, Ban called on Lebanese parties to immediately halt all efforts to acquire and build paramilitary units.
He reiterated that militias should be reduced through political dialogue. ""The ultimate purpose of disarmament is the establishment of a strong Lebanese state for all inhabitants of Lebanon,"" he said.
""Hezbollah's maintenance of separate military assets and infrastructure is a fundamental challenge to the government's attempts to consolidate the sovereignty and authority of the Lebanese state,"" he said, adding that several Palestinian militias also operate in the country.