Security Council condemns Fatah Islam attacks in Lebanon camp

The UN Security Council on Wednesday condemned the attacks by the Fatah Islam group in northern Lebanon "in the strongest possible terms," saying they constitute an unacceptable attack on the country's stability, security and sovereignty. Council members reiterated "their unequivocal condemnation of any attempt to destabilize Lebanon and underlined their readiness to continue to act in support of the legitimate and democratically elected government of Lebanon." A press statement from the council, which was read by the current president, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, appealed to all Lebanese "to continue to maintain national unity in the face of such attempts to undermine the country' stability." It reaffirmed the council's strong support for Lebanon's sovereignty and political independence "under the sole and exclusive authority of the government of Lebanon." The battle between Fatah Islam militants holed up in the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp and Lebanese army troops outside, who are barred under an agreeement with the Palestinians from entering the camp, was Lebanon's worst eruption of violence since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. Around half of Nahr el-Bared's 31,000 residents fled the camp after a halt in the fighting Tuesday night. But Lebanon's defense minister issued an ultimatum Wednesday to Fatah Islam operatives barricaded in the camp on the outskirts of the northern city of Tripoli to surrender or face a military onslaught, raising fears of a possible bloody showdown. Fighters from the al-Qaida-inspired group vowed not to give up and to resist any Lebanese assault. The Security Council expressed deep concern at the recent violence "which killed over 60 people and injured numerous others." "The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the attacks by the so-called `Fatal al Islam' gunmen on Lebanese security and armed forces in northern Lebanon, which constitutes an unacceptable attack on Lebanon's stability, security and sovereignty," the statement said. The council "underlined the need to protect and give assistance to the civilian population, notably the Palestinian refugees." Council members also condemned the latest bomb attacks in Beirut. The Security Council noted the Arab League's condemnation of the "criminal and terrorist acts" committed by Fatah Islam, and its support for the government and army to maintain peace and security.