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ARABS-UN - June 16 - Lebanon Rejects Annan's Confirmation On Withdrawal.

UN Secretary-General Annan confirms that Israel had fully withdrawn from southern Lebanon as ordered by the Security Council, but Beirut's PM Hoss says some Israeli troops still remained. Annan's official certification clears the way for the 4,500-member UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to be strengthened to 5,600 troops in July and deployed in the border regions. It is also meant to restore the Lebanese government's authority over territory Israel has occupied for 22 years and now largely controlled by Iranian-backed Hizbollah guerrillas.

(UN map experts and others were to have checked that all Israeli troops and officials have pulled back behind an international border demarcated in 1923. Israel announced its withdrawal on May 24.) On June 16, Annan says: "I am delighted to tell you that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon has today reported to me that Israel has withdrawn from the country in full compliance with Security Council resolution 425". He speaks at a news conference minutes before he leaves for the ME "to see what the UN can do to consolidate and build on today's achievement". Shortly after Annan's statement, Lebanese PM Hoss rejects it, saying, "I do not think the UN secretary-general could announce the completion of the withdrawal according to UN Resolution 425 if he knew these facts", adding: "With deep regret, and it is clear this evening, Israel did not withdraw from all Lebanese lands". He says: "Israeli military positions are still inside the Lebanese borders and some Lebanese lands are still under Israeli control in an overt violation". Diplomats say Annan told the Council Israel was late in withdrawing from one border position, known as "marker 18". One envoy says: "He confirmed the withdrawal on the basis of an understanding that the installation was being removed", adding that UN troops would check again to see this had been done. UN officials say Lebanon as well as Israel have objections to some of the border markings but have agreed to disagree for the time being. (Annan had spoken to Lebanese Pres. Lahoud before he made the announcement. Israel withdrew its troops on May 24.)

Annan leaves for Paris en route to visit several countries in the ME, starting in Morocco, where he will meet Saudi Arabian officials. Annan says before his departure: "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 also submits a report in which Lebanon and Israel raised objections to the borderline. However, the report says: "Notwithstanding the reservations of the 2 governments about the withdrawal line, Israel and Lebanon have confirmed that identifying this line was the responsibility solely of the UN and that they will respect the line as identified". Annan's ME envoy, Terje Roed Larsen, says at a news conference, the Lebanese government had made clear it "would respect the decision of the UN as concerns the Israeli withdrawal".

Roed Larsen says any final legal boundary line was up to countries to determine and not the UN. But he says the line drawn by UN experts "is in our opinion in full conformity with the international boundaries of Lebanon and Israel" and was based on the best evidence available. (The verification was delayed by disagreements, with Lebanon complaining that the pullback line delineated by the UN did not correspond with the international border.) On June 15, Israeli soldiers fired shots near a UN team visiting one of the remaining unchecked border sites, forcing the UN inspection team, comprised of UN and Lebanese officials, to retreat from the immediate area.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jun 17, 2000
Words:604
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