AP: Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged Iran as well as Syria to cooperate in trying to disarm Lebanese militias that still control parts of the country, the first time the U.N. chief has issued a report linking Tehran to instability in Lebanon. Associated Press
By EDITH M. LEDERER
Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged Iran as well as Syria to cooperate in trying to disarm Lebanese militias that still control parts of the country, the first time the U.N. chief has issued a report linking Tehran to instability in Lebanon.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton praised Annan’s remarks on Wednesday, saying they showed “that Iran’s financing terrorist groups in Lebanon and Syria has a significant impact on what happens in those two countries.”
Annan mentioned Iran in a report on implementation of a September 2004 Security Council resolution that called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, the disbanding and disarmament of all militias, and the extension of government authority throughout the country.
The secretary-general did not mention the financing of terrorist groups, but he did note the “close ties, with frequent contacts and regular communication,” that Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas, who are listed as a terrorist group by the United States, have with Syria and Iran.
Iran’s interest in Lebanon and prospects for disarming Hezbollah are certain to come up when Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fuad Saniora meets Annan and the Security Council on Friday.
Despite last year’s departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon after 29 years, Annan warned that Lebanon will not regain full independence until Hezbollah and other Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias that operate freely in the country give up their arms and come under government control.
In the report circulated Tuesday night, Annan said Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, had been among those supporting national reconciliation meetings that brought Lebanese together to talk frankly about issues that only a few months ago were considered taboo, including the armed militias.
But in a footnote, Annan noted that Syrian President Bashar Assad urged continued “resistance” in Lebanon at a press conference on Jan. 19 with Iran’s visiting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has become a close ally.
U.N. diplomats noted that Nasrallah went to Syria to meet Ahmadinejad and several times afterward to meet with other Iranian officials, most recently former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani whose trip ended Sunday. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
Despite the Syrian and Iranian calls for “resistance,” Annan noted that Hezbollah leaders had indicated “their willingness to disarm” under a broad national defense policy to protect Lebanon.
Alluding to Iran and Syria, he said, “a dialogue with parties other than the Lebanese authorities is indispensable in order … to disarm and disband all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.”
Annan said he strongly believes that “significant further headway” toward full implementation of the September 2004 resolution can be made with continued support from the Security Council, Lebanon’s government, the reconciliation meetings and “the necessary cooperation of all other relevant parties, including Syria and Iran.”
Bolton said Annan’s report demonstrated “the importance of Iranian interference in Lebanese internal affairs.”
“I think by saying specifically that Syria and Iran have to be involved in ceasing their internal disruption in Lebanon is an important step forward, and I’m sure the council will consider that very carefully,” he said.