'UNIFIL won't get additional powers'

Ministry: UN to demand troop release; Israel backs extending Lebanon mandate.

unifil in south lebanon (photo credit: AP [file])
unifil in south lebanon
(photo credit: AP [file])
The cabinet agreed Sunday to support the extension of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 governing UNIFIL's operations in southern Lebanon, even though it was clear that the extended mandate will not include a mechanism for the implementation of the arms embargo from Syria into Lebanon. Foreign Ministry director-general Aharon Abramovitch briefed the cabinet on Israel's diplomatic efforts to influence the new resolution, which is being drawn up by the US and France. He said that Israel wanted the resolution to include a call for more action by the UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon. While Israel has little expectations that there will be any change in the language relating to the arms embargo, Abramovitch said that the resolution will likely repeat the demand for the immediate and unconditional release of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, and express concern that not only have they not been returned, but that Israel has not been given any sign of life. Israel, according to Abramovitch, is trying to get language inserted in the resolution that makes clear that the kidnapping of the soldiers was what led to last summer's conflict. Israel also wants the resolution to include a reiteration that the area from Israel's northern border to the Litani River be a zone where only weapons approved by the Lebanese Army are allowed, and that this area not be used for hostile action against Israel. Israel is also trying to get inserted in the resolution a clause that says that the situation in Lebanon represents a "threat to the peace and security" of the international community, language that in UN terms would bind countries to more forceful implementation of 1701. In addition to not calling for any greater action regarding the interdiction of arms from Syria to Lebanon, Israel is also not expecting that the resolution will call for the dismantling of militias, although the introduction to the new resolution is expected to make reference to UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls precisely for that. Abramovitch stressed that the extension of the mandate, set to expire on August 31, was a technical matter, and that the new resolution would in no way detract from the original one which put an end to last summer's fighting. Abramovitch put the number of UNIFIL forces at 13,286 from some 30 countries, just shy of the 15,000 that the original resolution said should be deployed. This was Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's last meeting before a week-long vacation that he will spend at his residence in Jerusalem.