published Thursday, October 18th, 2012

U.N. chief: Hezbollah drone launch ’reckless’

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Hezbollah’s recent drone launch into Israeli airspace a “reckless provocation” in a report submitted Thursday to the Security Council, and warned that the war in Syria was destabilizing Lebanon.

Ban also criticized Israel, saying its use of drones and fighter jets in Lebanese territory violates Lebanon’s sovereignty. Israel and Hezbollah, a major political and military force in Lebanon, fought a war in 2006.

The U.N. chief said he has told Lebanon’s leaders that militias like Hezbollah pose serious risks “to the stability of the country and the region.” He called on Hezbollah to disarm.

Ban said the drone launched by Hezbollah earlier this month was “a reckless provocation that could lead to a dangerous escalation threatening Lebanon’s stability.” Israeli forces intercepted the drone.

The secretary-general’s semi-annual report examines Lebanon’s efforts to regain control over all of its territory, strengthen its sovereignty and disarm its militias since the withdrawal of Syrian security forces in 2005. Under a Security Council resolution passed in 2004, Lebanon’s militias were told to disarm, but have not — Hezbollah has instead increased its weapons capacity nearly to the level of the Lebanese military, Ban said.

Hezbollah’s “sizeable sophisticated military capabilities outside the control of the Government of Lebanon remains a matter of grave concern, particularly as it creates an atmosphere of intimidation in the country and represents a key challenge to the safety of Lebanese civilians and to the Government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force,” he said.

Lebanon and Syria have also failed to demarcate their borders, Ban said.

Ban also warned that Lebanon has been destabilized by Syria’s civil war, with cross-border clashes and shelling, arms smuggling, assassination attempts and an influx of refugees. He added that he was concerned about reports of Hezbollah’s activities in Syria, where the death toll is now estimated by activists at over 30,000.

On Monday, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the Security Council that Hezbollah is stepping up support for the Syrian government and has become part of President Bashar Assad’s “killing machine.” Hezbollah is also continuing to plot new measures with Iran to keep Assad in power, she said.

Israel’s ambassador Ron Prosor said Monday that Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad form a “trio of terror” with Assad, “offering the tyrant of Damascus guidance on how to butcher the Syrian people more efficiently.”

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