kofi annan 88 ap.
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Six years ago, when Israel withdrew from Lebanon, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan made a swing through the region, similar to the one that brings him to Jerusalem today. Back then, Annan met with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
"Let me say that Hizbullah... is a player in the south of Lebanon... I did tell Mr. Nasrallah that Hizbullah exercised restraint, responsibility and discipline after the withdrawal, and that we would want to see that continue, and I'm sure from the indications that he gave me that he intends to do it," Annan said after his meeting in June 2000.
We can only suppose that Annan must wince a bit at his decision to meet with "Mr. Nasrallah," and the public confidence he displayed in him then.
Annan did not, of course, meet with Nasrallah - who in any case is difficult to find these days - this week in Beirut. But Prime Minister Ehud Olmert might suggest to his guest today that Annan not go ahead with a worse meeting tentatively planned for later this week: with Nasrallah's backers in Teheran.
Just last week, Annan's spokesman stated that his boss "considers anyone who would try to deny the truth of the Holocaust or make false claims about it to be a bigot." The same statement said that Annan was "likely" to visit Teheran.
Why would Annan want pictures of him meeting politely with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man he has effectively and correctly called an anti-Semitic bigot, broadcast around the world?
Iran is defying multiple UN decisions regarding its nuclear program. To emphasize its defiance, the regime has just unveiled a new plutonium-producing reactor project and shot off a long-range missile. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and as late as yesterday reiterated his arguments for Israel's elimination - an act of genocide.
If meeting Nasrallah has correctly become beyond the pale for the UN secretary-general, why is meeting with Iranian leaders within the realm of the acceptable? What can Annan say in Teheran that cannot be better said in New York, without providing Ahmadinejad with a diplomatic plum?
Annan deserves credit for continuing to insist, in Lebanon, on the full implementation of Resolution 1701, including the unconditional release of Israel's abducted soldiers and the disarming of Hizbullah. He said that Lebanon could not choose "a la carte" the parts of the resolution it liked, and that there must be "one law, one authority, one gun" in Lebanon.
Yet when asked whether the new mandate of UNIFIL included deployment along the Lebanese-Syrian border, Annan strangely misrepresented Resolution 1701: "We have no such plans at the moment. As I said not long ago, it is not in [UNIFIL's] mandate to deploy to the Lebanese-Syrian border."
Actually, operative paragraph 14 "calls upon the government of Lebanon to... prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel and requests UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11 [defining UNIFIL's expanded mandate] to assist the government of Lebanon at its request."
UNIFIL's entire deployment, including in the south, required the Lebanese government's blessing. That approval, as Annan proudly pointed out, was provided when Lebanon adopted Resolution 1701 "fully and unanimously."
Is the enforcement of an embargo against rearming of Hizbullah integral to 1701, or is it something that Lebanon may opt out of "a la carte?" Why didn't Annan say that he expects that Lebanon will fulfill such an embargo and that 1701 explicitly places UNIFIL at Lebanon's disposal to assist in this task?
Obviously, as urgent and necessary as it is to disarm Hizbullah, it is even more critical to prevent Hizbullah from restocking the enormous arsenal it just lost. This must be done both by ensuring that there are consequences for Syria and Iran if they attempt to violate the new UN embargo, and by insisting that Lebanon enforce the embargo, presumably with UNIFIL's help.
Annan may be right that the key to disarming Hizbullah is for the Lebanese government to build a consensus for doing so, rather than UNIFIL leading the way by force. But if UNIFIL will not disarm Hizbullah, and will not even help enforce an embargo on the border, what is it there for? And if Annan himself is deflating Resolution 1701's key embargo provision, as well as providing Teheran's genocidal bigots with proof that they can defy the world and still merit a prestigious diplomatic visit, is he part of the solution, or of the problem?