ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN LEBANON, 19-20 JUNE
The Secretary-General arrived in Beirut from Cairo in the morning of Monday, 19 June.
In an hour-long meeting with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Salim El-Hoss, he felt he was able to clarify a number of issues on which there have been misunderstandings.
He pledged that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) would be vigilant on the matter of border violations, but drew the distinction between Israeli military withdrawal, which he had already confirmed to the Security Council, and encroachments, which he felt could be dealt with.
At a press encounter after that meeting, the Secretary-General said that he realized that both sides had problems with the "blue line" that the United Nations marked on the ground for the purpose of confirming Israeli withdrawal. But he emphasized that marking a line of withdrawal was not the same as demarcating a border. The United Nations task now, he said, is to help restore peace and stability in southern Lebanon. He is confident that the United Nations and Lebanon will continue to work in close cooperation towards that goal.
In the afternoon, he flew by UNIFIL helicopter to the peacekeeping mission headquarters in Nakoura. He was briefed by Force Commander General Kofi Obeng about the border situation. He also addressed the staff and laid a wreath in memory of United Nations members of the mission killed in the line of duty.
He then flew back to Beirut to meet with Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament. Following that meeting he gave a press conference.
On Monday evening he attended a dinner in his honour hosted by President Lahoud.
The following morning, the Secretary-General met with Sheikh Hassan Nasralleh, the head of Hizbollah, which is in the process of transforming itself into a political party. This was the first time that a Secretary-General had met with a Hizbollah leader.
They discussed Lebanon's complaints about Israeli border encroachments in southern Lebanon. Sheikh Nasralleh emphasized Hizbollah's concern over the continued detention by Israel of Lebanese prisoners of war. They also talked of cooperation between Hizbollah and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon. The Secretary-General thanked the Sheikh for the restraint shown by Hizbollah during Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon. He spoke briefly to the press before going to the airport, where he gave a formal press conference prior to his departure to Amman, Jordan.
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