31/07/2003
Press Release
SC/7834



Security Council

4802nd Meeting (AM)


SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF INTERIM FORCE IN LEBANON UNTIL 31 JANUARY 2004


The Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which was to expire today, until 31 January 2004.


Unanimously adopting resolution 1496 (2003), the Council urged the parties to end the serious breaches and the air, sea and land violations of the withdrawal line and to abide by their obligation to respect the safety of UNIFIL and other United Nations personnel.


Welcoming the steps taken by the Lebanese Government to ensure the return of its effective authority throughout the south of the country, the Council called on it to continue to extend those measures and to do its utmost to ensure a calm environment throughout the south.


Applauding the progress in demining efforts, the Council stressed the need to provide the Lebanese Government and UNIFIL with any additional maps and records on the location of mines.


Further, the Council stressed the importance of, and the need to achieve, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all its relevant resolutions, including resolution 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), and looked forward to the early fulfilment of UNIFIL’s mandate.


The meeting started at 10:50 a.m. and adjourned at 10:53 a.m.


Resolution


The full text of resolution 1496 (2003) reads as follows:


The Security Council,


Recalling all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, in particular resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) of 19 March 1978 and 1461 of 30 January 2003, as well as the statements of its President on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statement of 18 June 2000 (document S/PRST/2000/21),


Recalling further the letter from its President to the Secretary-General of 18 May 2001 (document S/2001/500),


Recalling also the Secretary-General’s conclusion that, as of 16 June 2000, Israel had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in accordance with resolution 425 (1978) and met the requirements defined in the Secretary-General’s report of 22 May 2000 (document S/2000/460), as well as the Secretary-General’s conclusion that United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) had essentially completed two of the three parts of its mandate, focusing now on the remaining task of restoring international peace and security,


Emphasizing the interim nature of UNIFIL,


Recalling its resolution 1308 (2000) of 17 July 2000,


Recalling also its resolution 1325 (2000) of 31 October 2000,


Recalling further the relevant principles contained in the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel adopted on 9 December 1994,


Responding to the request of the Government of Lebanon, as stated in the letter from its Permanent Representative to the United Nations of 2 July 2003 to the Secretary-General (document S/2003/685),


“1.   Endorses the report of the Secretary-General on UNIFIL of 23 July 2003 (document S/2003/728), and in particular its recommendation to renew the mandate of UNIFIL for a further period of six months;


“2.   Decides to extend the present mandate until 31 January 2004;


“3.   Reiterates its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries;


“4.   Welcomes the steps already taken by the Government of Lebanon to ensure the return of its effective authority throughout the south, including the deployment of Lebanese armed forces, and calls on it to continue to extend these measures and to do its utmost to ensure a calm environment throughout the south;


“5.   Calls on the parties to ensure UNIFIL is accorded full freedom of movement in the discharge of its mandate throughout its area of operation as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report;


“6.   Reiterates its call on the parties to continue to fulfil the commitments they have given to respect fully the withdrawal line identified by the United Nations, as set out in the Secretary-General’s report of 16 June 2000 (document S/2000/590), to exercise utmost restraint and to cooperate fully with the United Nations and UNIFIL;


“7.   Condemns all acts of violence, expresses great concern about the serious breaches and the air, sea and land violations of the withdrawal line, and urges the parties to put an end to these violations and to abide scrupulously by their obligation to respect the safety of UNIFIL and other United Nations personnel;


“8.   Supports the continued efforts of UNIFIL to maintain the ceasefire along the withdrawal line through mobile patrols and observation from fixed positions and through close contacts with the parties to correct violations, resolve incidents and prevent their escalation;


“9.   Welcomes the continued contribution of UNIFIL to operational demining, applauds the progress in demining efforts noted by the Secretary-General in his report, encourages further assistance in mine action by the United Nations to the Government of Lebanon in support of both the continued development of its national mine action capacity and emergency demining activities in the south, commends donor countries for supporting these efforts through financial and in-kind contributions and encourages further international contributions, takes note of the communication to the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL of maps and information on the location of mines and stresses the necessity to provide the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL with any additional maps and records on the location of mines;


“10.  Requests the Secretary-General to continue consultations with the Government of Lebanon and other parties directly concerned on the implementation of this resolution and to report thereon to the Council before the end of the present mandate as well as on the activities of UNIFIL and the tasks presently carried out by the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO);


“11.  Looks forward to the early fulfilment of the mandate of UNIFIL;


“12.  Stresses the importance of, and the need to achieve, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all its relevant resolutions including its resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967 and 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973.”


Background


The Security Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for the period from 15 January to 23 July (document S/2003/728).  According to the report, the UNIFIL area of operation has continued to be generally calm since the previous report, dated 14 January.  Against the background of the heightened tension in the wider region, the parties have by and large exercised restraint.  Almost six months have passed since the last violent exchange across the Blue Line, the longest period of relative calm since Israel withdrew from Lebanon more than three years ago after 22 years of occupation.  An additional indicator of stabilization in southern Lebanon has been the success of demining efforts.

Nevertheless, the report continues, tension between Israel and Lebanon remains high and the relative calm along the Blue Line is an uneasy one.  The violation of the Blue Line in the Shab’a farms in January, a grave breach of the ceasefire, is emblematic of the tension still prevailing.  Furthermore, the provocative air violations by Israel not only intimidate the civilian population of Lebanon but they are at variance with Israel’s otherwise full compliance with Council resolution 425 (1978).  Hizbollah’s firing of anti-aircraft weapons across the Blue Line into populated northern Israeli villages is a violation and puts Lebanese and Israeli citizens, as well as UNIFIL personnel, at risk.

Both the air incursions and the live fire violations carry substantial potential for escalation.  The Secretary-General again stresses the need for all parties to respect fully the withdrawal line identified by the United Nations, as repeatedly called for by the Council, to cease all violations of the line and to refrain from any action that could serve to destabilize the situation on the ground.

The Lebanese Government demonstrated its capacity to increase its authority throughout southern Lebanon, particularly through the activities of the Joint Security Forces and the Lebanese Army during this period of heightened tension in the wider region.  Consistent with Council resolution 425 (1978), Lebanon should continue to deploy its armed forces to extend its control over the south.  The Secretary-General reiterates the Council’s call for the Government to continue with the measures it has taken thus far and to do its utmost to encourage a calm environment throughout the south.   

The report notes that the relative improvement in terms of security in southern Lebanon coupled with the achievements in demining point to the need for an increased focus on the economic development of the south.  In this respect, both the Lebanese Government and international donors are urged to redouble their rehabilitation efforts.

The report states that UNIFIL will continue to contribute to the restoration of international peace and security through observing, monitoring and reporting on developments in its area of operation, liaising with the parties to maintain calm.  The situation along the Blue Line, although generally quiet, is nevertheless susceptible to volatile regional developments, and as such underlines the need to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all the relevant resolutions of the Security Council.  Thus, the Secretary-General recommends that the Council extend UNIFIL’s mandate until 31 January 2004.

In doing so, he again draws attention to the serious shortfall in the funding of the Force.  At present, unpaid assessments amount to $85.4 million.  Eventually, this represents money owed to the Member States contributing the troops that make up the Force.  The Secretary-General appeals to all Member States to pay their assessments promptly and in full and to clear all remaining arrears, and expresses his gratitude to the governments contributing troops to the Force for their understanding and patience.


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