Mr. President,

It gives me pleasure to begin by congratulating you on your election as president of the 57~' Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I wish you success as you embark on the task of promoting international collective work in the service of peace cooperation and development to face up to the challenges that await us. I would also like to thank your predecessor, Mr. Hang Soong- Soo who had so ably steered the work of the 56t' Session that was convened amidst acute and grave circumstances.

I shall be remiss if I fail to express my appreciation to H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations for working tirelessly to enhance the role of our international organization.

It is also my pleasure to congratulate the Swiss Federation and East Timor on their admission to the membership of our international organization.

Mr. President;

Lebanon considers the United Nations the main recourse entrusted with the realization of international peace and security and upholding respect for the rules of international law. The UN is a safe haven for states, particularly small ones, which find in its Charter the reassurances they need in a turbulent world. Therefore, the departure from the Charter, bypassing or overstepping this authority, the selective handling of its resolutions, the attempts to impose settlements on and solutions to the conflicts and disputes outside its framework flagrantly undermine the credibility of the organization and its organs, particularly the Security Council. These acts are a devastating blow to the pillars of international order.

Lebanon believes that there is a causal relationship between security and sustainable development and calls for a renewed effort under the auspices of the United Nations to eliminate poverty and disease, bridge the gap between the North and the South, and reduce social disparities. These are the scourges that are often manipulated by those who harbor ill intentions against humanity.

In this context, Lebanon welcomes the establishment of the African Union, and supports the principles on which the new partnership was built.

Mr. President;

The work of this session coincides with the first anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks and the terrible tragedy that struck the United States of America. The world is still suffering from their terrible repercussions. I avail myself of this opportunity to renew our sympathy with the bereaved families. Like us, they are heartbroken over the loss of their sons, relatives and loved ones. We also renew our commitment to cooperate with the international community to combat terrorism in accordance with the provisions of SC Resolution 1373 of 9/2812001 and other relevant UN resolutions.

The events of September 11, 2001, have impeded the convening of the Ninth Summit of the Francophonie that was scheduled to be held last year with the theme of "Dialogue among Civilizations". My country is proud to host the conference in mid October, for which the preparations are currently underway. The choice of the subject for this conference before these dramatic events undoubtedly stems from the wisdom of members and participants, and their conviction of the need to interact, engage in dialogue, far from the logic of confrontation and hostility.

Mr. President;

Lebanon itself was the target of terrorist acts prior to September 11, 2001, and its army stood up to the perpetrators and overcame them.

Lebanon and its Arab brothers have been suffering from the state terrorism continuously practiced by Israel without deterrence since the Deir Yassin Massacre and the Massacres of Qana and Jenin. Lately, Israel started manipulating the tragic events of September 2001 and the international campaign to combat terrorism using them shamefully as a pretext to pursue its persecution of the Palestinian people and deprive them from their right to self-determination. Israel launched a slanderous campaign of threats against Lebanon and its legitimate resistance as well as against Syria, whereas the origin of the conflict in the region is the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories.

The reality is that Israel has continuously defied the resolutions of the international legality. For over 22 years, Israel has disregarded Security Council Resolution 425 and refused to implement the Security Council resolution that called for the establishment of a fact-finding mission to investigate the Jenin massacre. It resorted to terror and violence as a means to implement its policies of expansionism and settlement. It accumulated weapons of mass destruction in an arsenal primarily stacked with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. It continues to oppose all attempts to arrive at a just and comprehensive peaceful solution to the Middle East issue, and remains nonetheless in total impunity, never held accountable or punishable for its actions. This situation cannot but consolidate the impression among the Arab governments and peoples that there are two different standards at play in international affairs, and that, regrettably, Israel is allowed to remain outside and above the law.

Mr. President,

As if occupying the Arab lands and terrorizing their civilian populations were not enough, Israeli greed prompts it to usurp our natural wealth and water resources in defiance of international law and instruments. The Israeli Prime Minister directly threatened to attack Lebanon with the pretext that we are diverting the course of the Hasbani River. The fact is however that Lebanon is trying to draw limited amounts of water to some Southern deprived villages that have suffered from the Israeli occupation for many years. This will lead us to pump a total of approximately 9 million cubic meters annually. By all standards, this amount is way below our legitimate entitlement. It represents only one tenth of our right.

Lebanon reiterates its refusal of these Israeli threats, and draws the attention of this august assembly and that of the Security Council to the danger of these threats and to their direct negative impact on international peace and security.

Mr. President,

It is difficult for any human collectivity to strive for security in the absence of a pursuit of political, economic, and social justice. We therefore believe that security approaches alone, and partial interim solutions cannot possibly succeed in solving the Middle East conflict. And we therefore call for the adoption of an approach that takes into account the priority of the political dimension of this conflict, and the need to arrive at a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict in the region in all its aspects.

It is in this context that the Arab leaders have unanimously adopted an integral indivisible peace initiative in the Arab Summit that was held in Beirut on the 28th and the 29h of March 2002, in accordance with the following equation:

I- Israelis asked to:

A- Withdraw completely from the occupied Arab territories including the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of June 4th 1967, and its withdrawal from the territories that are still occupied in Southern Lebanon;

B- Arriving at a just solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with GA Resolution 194;

C- Agreeing to the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital;

II- Subsequently, the Arab states undertake to:

A- Consider that the Arab-Israeli conflict has ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, along with ensuring security for all the countries of the region;

B- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this just peace;

III- A major element of the Arab Peace Initiative is securing the rejection of all forms of implantation of Palestinian refugees incompatible with the particularities of the Arab host countries.
It is unfortunate that Israel has responded to this initiative by escalating its aggression and reoccupying the West Bank, relentlessly targeting human lives and property in the occupied Palestinian territory. Simultaneously, others chose to ignore or over-ride the Initiative, despite its comprehensiveness, unanimous Arab stance and wide international support.

The Beirut Summit established a special committee to implement the Arab Peace Initiative. Once formed, the committee requested a meeting with the Quartet to present the Initiative and confirm its status as a reference point for the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as it summed up all the previous references since the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991 and was based on the resolutions of international legality, in order to submit it to the Security Council for its adoption and for the subsequent establishment of an international mechanism to put it into effect.

A meeting was held between the Quartet and a delegation of the committee at the UN Headquarters. We hope that it would pave the way for a mechanism of prior consultations and joint effort on the basis of the resolutions of international legality and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Mr. President,

The Arab Peace Initiative which we uphold, and which was adopted unanimously by the Arab countries, represents a historic opportunity that may not present itself again. It cannot be replaced by partial or interim approaches the futility of which was proven over the decades. Instead of leading to the long awaited peace, they led to renewed violence. We therefore call upon the international community to adopt this initiative and support it as it represents a chance for the realization of our aspirations to a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

Mr. President,

Submitting the disputes to the United Nations and implementing its resolutions, particularly those of the Security Council can guarantee the peaceful settlement of any given conflict. By following this course the parties could be spared the need to settle their dispute by military means. It may not be easy to contain the tragic ramifications of military action in a given region. This is particularly true of Iraq, which was also the subject of deliberations in the Beirut Arab Summit. There it was also decided that the solution to the Iraqi problem is through dialogue. Iraq should not be yet once again the theatre to another war that will increase the suffering of its people. The Arab leaders consider that an attack against any Arab state is a threat to the national security of all Arab countries.

As president of the Arab Summit, Lebanon hopes that Iraq's compliance with the will of the international community, and allowing the return of the international Inspectors will lead to the end of the suffering of its people, and to a comprehensive solution that will lead to the implementation of the requirements of Security Council resolutions, and to lifting of the sanctions. We also hope that this will allow to rid the Middle East region of all weapons of mass destruction, and to refrain from the threat of using force against Iraq thus preserving and respecting its sovereignty, its independence and its territorial integrity.

Mr. President,

As a founding member of this Organization, Lebanon takes pride in its strong relation with the UN, being one of the co-founders and having contributed in the drafting of its Charter, as well as the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As you may know, since 1978 the UN has deployed UNIFIL in South Lebanon in the aftermath of the Israeli occupation of this cherished part of our homeland.

After May 2000, UNIFIL had the opportunity to commence the implementation of its mandate after Israel was forced to withdraw from most of the territories in Southern Lebanon. This withdrawal was possible thanks to the solidarity among our people, their legitimate resistance to the Israeli occupation, the fact that the government embraced the heroic efforts of its people for liberation and the international support to our just cause. The Lebanese Shab'a Farms at the foot of Mount Hermon, remained under occupation as well as three other points along the withdrawal line with regard to which Lebanon expressed its reservations. These are Lebanese territories and Lebanon preserves its natural right to recover them and to spread its sovereignty over them. Another important aspect o£ UNIFIL's task that has yet to be fulfilled is the restoration of international peace and security. This task is continuously obstructed by Israel's continued threats against Lebanon, and its provocations as evidenced by the repeated violation of our sovereignty over our land, airspace, and territorial waters. Furthermore, Israel continues to occupy the Syrian Golan and to ignore the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. It turned down every initiative to find a just and comprehensive solution to the Middle East problem.

I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to commend the efforts of the United Nations and the important role that UNIFIL plays to fulfill the mandate entrusted to it by the Security Council.

Mr. President,

Liberating the Lebanese territories from Israeli occupation will remain incomplete unless we address the heinous legacy of occupation and succeed in finding a just settlement to the problem of Palestinian refugees particularly those residing in Lebanon. Such a settlement should be based on their right to return and rejecting their implantation in Lebanon. Failure to factor the refugees into the equation of the solution based on the Right of Return and the rejection of resettlement in host countries is a time bomb. I will undermine the security we are all striving to attain in the Middle East Region on the basis of peaceful, comprehensive and just settlement to this protracted conflict.

We like to stress that the solution to the Palestinian refugees question cannot be realized through exclusive bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. Guaranteeing respect for the rules of international law and the viability of any solution require that host and other concerned countries, including Lebanon, be involved in the negotiating process.

With regard to mine clearing, Lebanon is stepping up cooperation with the United Nations and other friendly countries to assist in clearing the mines that the Israeli Occupying Forces are responsible for laying in our territories, noting that Israel did not hand over the complete maps and specific locations of the mines as it has maintained all along.

We attach maximum importance to the release of the Lebanese citizens who are unduly detained in Israeli prisons. They were kidnapped by Israel, and incarcerated taken as hostages in flagrant defiance of the rules of international law and instruments, particularly the Geneva Convention of 1949 and its additional protocols.

It is no secret that the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon and the Western Beqa'a has taxed our endurance. Our citizens' lives were tragically shattered, their properties destroyed and the infrastructures decimated, and our development was hampered This requires increased international assistance to revitalize our economy and further our growth opportunities. Lebanon reserves the right to demand compensation for the damage resulting from the Israeli occupation and acts of aggression in accordance with established procedures in international political and judicial fora.

Mr. President,

The reconstruction and rehabilitation of the liberated Lebanese territories and the revitalization of the economy are among the highest priorities of our government. Lebanon continues to work for the recovery of its economy and the reform of its fiscal policies through the adoption of carefully developed measures and legislation, including the Value Added Tax on goods and services, the gradual reduction of tariffs, in addition to the direct tax levy, and the rationalization of spending. The Lebanese Parliament had recently passed the Privatization Act regulating this aspect of economic activity and defining its conditions and its field of application.

These legislations, including the two acts of money laundering and illegitimate gains, are added to a series of laws that were developed to enhance the investors' confidence in the free market system that we are keen to preserve. Along the same lines, those in positions of responsibility in the Lebanese administration are subjected to strict accountability and liability rules.
It is worth mentioning here that the Lebanese internal security forces have destroyed over the years all the illegitimate crops, including hashish. But Lebanon did not receive the assistance that was provided to others so as to enable our farmers to live in dignity, and to find alternative crops to compensate for the huge losses that they have experienced.

Lebanon signed a Partnership agreement with the European Union last June, after acceding to the Greater Arab Free Trade Zone to which most Arab states currently belong. Preparations are currently underway for us to join the World Trade Organization in which we currently enjoy an Observer status.

Mr. President,

We gather here under the roof of the United Nations, our "common home" to engage in a dialogue on the best ways to translate into reality the great values of the Charter.

Lebanon takes pride in its firm belief in these values, and in the fact that it embodies through its national unity the plurality of its society. It stands for a rich human civilized experience, of which we are proud, and which the international community is surely keen to -preserve.

Lebanon looks forward to cooperating with you to contribute to the success of this Session and provide constructive solutions to the problems and challenges that we face while upholding the principles of liberty, justice and peace around the world, and particularly in the Middle East region. Finding a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict that has ravaged our region will surely liberate our people from the grips of a protracted problem that depleted their resources and impeded their development.

Thank you, Mr. President.