UNIFIL 248 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel warned on Tuesday that it might rethink its adherence to the cease-fire resolution that ended Lebanon war this summer, following a United Nations report that Syria was smuggling arms to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
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It's the first time since the war that the UN had made such a clear statement with regard to the failure to disarm Hizbullah.
The report flies in the face of the commitment Syrian President Bashar Assad made to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Damascus would comply with the arms embargo against Hizbullah and would support UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for it to be disarmed.
"If Lebanon cannot implement its side of the resolution, obviously Israel would be entitled to rethink the implementation of our commitments," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
He said the arms embargo was a critical element of Resolution 1701 and that the smuggling constituted a "core violation."
Prime Minister's Office spokeswoman Miri Eisin said: "Until the Syrian-Lebanese border issue is resolved, we will continue to reserve our right to self defense."
While Israel continues to insist it is fulfilling all its obligations under the cease-fire and Resolution 1701, France and the European Union are charging Israel with breaching them by continuing to conduct surveillance flights over Lebanon.
"We consider that these overflights constitute a violation of Lebanese sovereignty," a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry said.
On Tuesday, IAF planes flew low over Hizbullah strongholds in south Beirut in the heaviest show of air power over Lebanon since August 14.
Regev said the flights were "a response to the failure of the Lebanese side to implement its core commitments. When there are illicit arms transfers and no mechanism to [impede] them, we have cause to monitor such transfers."
The Security Council on Monday called both to disband militia groups and to respect Lebanon's sovereignty and integrity, but it did not take Israel to task for the overflights. The UN has, however, asked Israel to stop the flights in the past.
The Security Council did note with regret that non-Lebanese militias in that country had not been disbanded or disarmed.
Speaking to the press after the meeting, the UN's envoy for Syria and Lebanon, Terje Roed-Larsen, reported that Syria was smuggling weapons into Lebanon.
Representatives of the Lebanese government "have stated publicly and also in conversations with us that there have been arms coming across the border into Lebanon," said Larsen.
"The consistent position of the government of Syria has been that, 'Yes, there might be arms smuggling over the border, but this is arms smuggling and the border is porous and very difficult to control,'" he said.
The UN had not received any information on quantities and types of weapons or where they came from, however, and it could not confirm the Lebanese government reports because UN troops had not been asked by the Lebanese army to monitor the border, he said.
Roed-Larsen called the situation in Lebanon "worrisome."
"The political rhetoric shows that there are very high tensions, and I think we have to look at the situation in Lebanon with all caution. And there are reasons for being worried about where this is heading," he said.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Tuesday night that Israel was witnessing attempts by Syria, Iran and Hizbullah to undermine the stability of the Lebanese government.
At the Security Council on Monday US Ambassador to the UN John R. Bolton lashed out at both Syria and Iran for destabilizing Lebanon.
"We call on Syria and Iran to abide by their obligations to respect Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence. Syria's obligations in this regard are particularly important as it is the one country other than Israel that borders Lebanon," said Bolton.
Regev called on the international community to block the illicit arms transfers. He said the UN resolutions regarding Lebanon were very specific about the need to prevent the flow of arms to Hizbullah.
"Israel pulled out of Lebanon, we pulled out our ground forces, and in doing so we implemented our core resolutions under 1701," he said. "There's a serious question about the Lebanese side's core commitments."
Peretz also spoke on Tuesday of the failure to disarm Hizbullah and the dangers of Iran and Syria, and he said an important split was developing between those radical Muslim countries and more moderate ones such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
He said the Saudi peace plan adopted by the Arab league in 2002 that calls for Israel to withdraw to the Green Line could be a basis for negotiations with such moderate Arab countries and the Palestinians. He also said that such negotiations could help shore up Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in his power struggle against Hamas.
AP contributed to this report.