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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Security Council
4802nd Meeting (AM)
SC/7834
31 July 2003


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:

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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