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UN Security Council Tells Syria to Protect Border with Lebanon


The U.N. Security Council Friday voiced concern about reports of arms smuggling from Syria into Lebanon and also called on the Syrian government to step up security controls along its border with Lebanon. VOA's Suzanne Presto in New York reports the Council also offered support to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

In a statement Friday, the Security Council expressed its "grave concern" over reports that weapons are being smuggled across the Syrian border into Lebanon.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the U.S. is pleased with the Council's firm reaction to reports that Shi'ite Hezbollah militants in Lebanon are re-arming with weapons coming in from Syria. He said Friday's statement is an improvement over earlier U.N. resolutions on the issue.

"One important message is the stronger statement than, I think, in earlier resolutions. The statement with regard to the expression of 'grave concern' at the persistent reports of breaches of arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syrian border," he said.

Khalilzad said Hezbollah's recent statement that it it has the capability to strike anywhere in Israel has heightened concern. "Some of us read -- Tel Aviv in particular, all of Israel -- some of us read that, interpret that, as an admission of one or another kind of breach of 1701," he said.

U.N. Resolution 1701, adopted one year ago this month, calls for a full cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah.

The Security Council did not limit its criticism to Hezbollah militants. France's Deputy U.N. Representative, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, noted that the Council rebuked Israel for incursions into Lebanon. "We have a strong message by the Council on Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace. This is something that we've been keen to retain in the statement that was adopted, so we definitely have a strong message, consistent with Security Council policy regarding those violations," he said.

The Security Council statement also expressed deep concern that Hezbollah has not yet returned two Israeli soldiers. They were seized last year in a cross-border raid that sparked the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

The Council emphasized its commitment to UNIFIL, the U.N.'s force of 13,000 troops along the Lebanese-Israeli border. That force was expanded last year, after the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah fighters. Friday's statement also condemned all attacks against U.N. forces in Lebanon.

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