Friday, August 11, 2006

Syria, Iran warned to honour UN plan
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Iran and Syria to respect the terms of a resolution adopted by the UN Security Council overnight in a bid to end a month of fighting between their ally, Hezbollah, and Israel.

"We call upon every state, especially Iran and Syria, to respect the sovereignty of the Lebanese government and the will of the international community," she said in an address to the Security Council.

She also said "Hezbollah now faces a clear choice between war and peace" in light of the resolution, which was unanimously adopted by the 15-member council. READ MORE

The resolution, drafted by France and the United States, calls on Israel and Hezbollah to immediately cease hostilities following a month of fighting that has left more than 1000 Lebanese and over 120 Israelis dead.

It also calls for Israeli forces to withdraw from positions they have occupied in southern Lebanon in parallel with the deployment of Lebanese army units and a robust international military force in the region to prevent future Hezbollah attacks on Israel.

If implemented fully by Lebanon, the resolution will end Hezbollah's existence as a militia armed and supported by Iran and Syria.

The US administration was frequently criticised in recent weeks for refusing to deal directly with either Syria or Iran in its efforts to end the fighting in Lebanon.

Critics argued that the two states, as the primary providers of weapons and financial support to Hezbollah, needed to be part of any effective plan to halt Hezbollah attacks on Israel.

Ms Rice and President George W. Bush defended the stance, saying Damascus and Tehran had in the past failed to respond to approaches aimed at easing tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

Ms Rice said the UN text should "open a path to lasting peace between Lebanon and Israel that will end the suffering and violence of this past month."

"The people of the Middle East have lived too long at the mercy of extremists," she said.

"It is time to build a more hopeful future. This resolution shows us the way."

Immediately before Ms Rice spoke, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan lamented that it took the Security Council's major powers a month to achieve the overnight ceasefire proposal.

"I would be remiss if I did not tell you how profoundly disappointed I am that the council did not reach this point much, much earlier," he said.

"All members of this council must be aware that this inability to act sooner has badly shaken the world's faith in its authority and integrity," he said.

"It is absolutely vital that the fighting now stop," Mr Annan told the gathered council representatives, who in addition to Ms Rice included the foreign ministers of France, Britain and several other countries.