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Agenda item 123: Proposed programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003 ( continued)
Safety and security of United Nations personnel
Agenda item 134: Financing of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the Middle East
(b) United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
Agenda item 141: Financing of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone
The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.
(b) United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (A/56/431 and Corr.1 and A/56/510 and Corr.1)
10. Mr. Mselle (Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions), introducing the report of the Advisory Committee (A/56/510 and Corr.1), said that it recommended approval of the proposal in the report of the Secretary-General (A/56/431 and Corr.1).
11. Mr. Assaf (Lebanon) expressed his country’s gratitude for the efforts made by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to restore peace in the region, as well as its full support for UNIFIL at all political, administrative and financial levels. Despite difficult economic circumstances, Lebanon continued to pay its contribution to the Force in full and to provide duty-free access to imports for the exclusive use of UNIFIL.
12. He drew attention to paragraphs 25 and 26 of the report of the Secretary-General, in which it was stated that Israel had failed to pay the reparations required under a series of General Assembly resolutions to account for its premeditated attack on a United Nations centre in Qana in 1996. It was essential to hold Israel financially accountable to the United Nations for its actions; his country would hold consultations with the members of the Arab Group and the Group of 77 and China with a view to the adoption of the necessary resolution.
13. Mr. Nakkari (Syrian Arab Republic) said it was regrettable that a representative of the Secretary-General had not been able to introduce his report, since his delegation would have liked to ask for some clarifications. He expressed support for the comments made by the representative of Lebanon. Referring to paragraph 10 (c) of the report of the Secretary-General, he expressed satisfaction with the balanced way in which the report dealt with the possible reduction of UNIFIL to a force of 2,000 troops. The original proposal of the Secretary-General, endorsed subsequently by the Security Council (S/2001/500), made that reduction conditional on prior consultations with Lebanon and the troop-contributing countries. The decision to reduce the Force to 2,000 would not be made with certainty until June 2002. The situation was, however, misrepresented in the report of the Advisory Committee, from which it appeared that the reduction had already been decided. He could not therefore support paragraph 11 of that report. His delegation would also have liked to see a clear reference to the Qana incident referred to by the representative of Lebanon.
14. Referring to paragraph 12 of the report of the Advisory Committee, he said that it was useful to bear in mind that, after the abolition of four Professional posts in the Mine Action Coordination Cell, the related de-mining functions would be outsourced to contractors. Since the de-mining programme was financed by voluntary contributions, it would be very vulnerable to a decline in such contributions.
15. Mr. Adam (Israel) said that he was disturbed by the politically motivated manipulation of the Committee. He hoped that no political elements would be introduced into the draft resolution on UNIFIL so that it could be adopted by consensus, in line with the Committee’s usual practice. There was no precedent for a particular Member State’s bearing sole financial responsibility for damage sustained by United Nations forces in the context of a peacekeeping operation. The cost of such damage should be absorbed by the general budget for peacekeeping operations, in accordance with the principle of collective responsibility. He recalled the comments made in that regard in a letter from the Permanent Representative of Israel addressed to the Secretary-General (S/2001/942) and in his delegation’s statement at the General Assembly’s plenary meeting on 14 June 2001 (A/55/PV.103).
16. Mr. Assaf (Lebanon) said that he regretted having to repeat the same arguments year after year. While other bodies were responsible for determining Israel’s liability for compensating the victims of the incident at Qana, the Fifth Committee was entitled to call for the payment of the amount of $1,284,633, which had been recorded under accounts receivable for UNIFIL, to cover the cost of damage to United Nations property. That could not be termed a political issue. If the General Assembly set a precedent by requiring Israel to bear full responsibility for the damage, it was only responding to the precedent which Israel had set by deliberately bombing United Nations facilities.
17. Mr. Alatrash (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) said that an attempt was being made to force the international community to support the continuation of aggression by forcing it to bear the cost of such aggression. He could not agree to take financial responsibility for what he viewed as deliberate terrorist acts against civilians and United Nations forces that had tried to preserve peace and security in the Middle East.
18. Mr. Mselle (Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions) said, in reply to the Syrian delegation, that paragraph 11 of the Advisory Committee’s report (A/56/510) must be read in conjunction with paragraphs 8 and 9 of that report. Paragraph 8 mentioned the Secretary-General’s proposed 31.3-per-cent reduction in total resources for UNIFIL. One component of that reduction, namely troop strength, was dealt with in paragraph 9, which noted the proposal that troop strength should be reduced from 4,543 to 3,613 by 31 May 2002 and then to the target level of 2,000 by the beginning of the next financial period. Paragraph 11 indicated that the proposed reduction of 17 international staff posts was not commensurate with those reductions in troop strength. The Advisory Committee had not made any adjustments to the Secretary-General’s proposed total requirement of $136.6 million. However, it had indicated that it expected to receive proposals for further reductions in international staff for the period beginning 1 July 2002. Subject to that observation, it had recommended acceptance of the Secretary-General’s proposals.
19. Mr. Yeo (Director of the Peacekeeping Financing Division) said that the Secretary-General had proposed the abolition of four Professional posts in the Mine Action Coordination Cell and their replacement with an equivalent dollar amount for contractual services. That did not represent a decrease in the level of assessed funding for operational demining activities; rather, it reflected the Mine Action Service’s conclusion that demining expertise could be obtained more efficiently and expeditiously through the Office for Project Services. Operational demining of areas in which UNIFIL was active would continue to be funded from assessed contributions, while other activities relating to demining, such as the creation of national databases, would be funded from voluntary contributions.
20. With respect to the treatment of the Qana incident in the Secretary-General’s report (A/56/431), he felt that the issue had been appropriately highlighted in the English-language version; he could ask the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services to verify that it had been treated similarly in all the language versions.
21. In section III of the report and in the explanations contained in the annexes thereto, the Secretariat had made no presumptions as to what steps the Security Council might decide to take beyond the current downsizing measures.
22. Mr. Nakkari (Syrian Arab Republic) said that, while paragraph 10 (c) of the report specified that a decision on the reduction of troop strength would be based on developments on the ground, the assumptions contained in other paragraphs were not similarly qualified. He had raised the issue so that the text could be amended as appropriate.
23. He agreed with the substance of the section on the Qana incident. He would have preferred to see the issue addressed separately, as in the past, but noted that the practice of recent years had been to mention it among other issues in connection with UNIFIL. With respect to paragraph 11 of the Advisory Committee’s report (A/56/510), he felt that, if the General Assembly shared the Advisory Committee’s expectation that the troop strength of UNIFIL would be reduced, then the Department of Peacekeeping Operations must take that fact into account.
24. Mr. Mselle (Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions) pointed out that paragraph 11 of the Advisory Committee’s report concerned civilian personnel, not troops. The Fifth Committee could decide whether to approve immediately the expected staff reductions mentioned in that paragraph or whether to await future proposals made by the Secretary-General in the light of action taken by the Security Council. If the proposed phased reductions in troop strength did not take place, then the reductions mentioned in paragraph 11 would not take place either, contrary to the Advisory Committee’s expectations. In other reports, the Advisory Committee had made similar observations on the need to take future developments into account. The Fifth Committee could either request the Secretary-General to propose further reductions in international staff or provide guidelines for the Secretary-General not to propose such reductions.
25. Mr. Assaf (Lebanon) said that the issue of personnel reductions would be determined not by the Fifth Committee, but by the Security Council. His Government’s position was that United Nations operations in Lebanon should continue with all the current elements in place. The aim was not to increase the burden of funding United Nations troops in Lebanon, but only to ensure that every effort was made to support peace and stability in the Middle East, which was priceless.
The meeting rose at 11.25 a.m.
This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.