Risk of Mideast conflict has eased: UN envoy

UNITED NATIONS- UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said Thursday that the risk of conflict in the Middle East has eased but warned that the presence of heavily armed militias in Lebanon in violation of a UN resolution must be addressed.
He told reporters here that there was "less of a potential of conflict over the last few days than a couple of weeks ago."

UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen in 2008
UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen in 2008
He said UN chief Ban Ki-moon had personally spoken to key regional leaders and "asked them to lower their rhetoric and act responsibly."
"I think his calls have been heeded," he said, after briefing the UN Security Council on implementation of Resolution 1559, a text adopted in 2004 by the 15-member council which calls for "the disbanding and disarmament" of all militias in Lebanon.
"As long as these unresolved issues are there, for instance the existence of heavily armed militias in Lebanon (a reference to Hezbollah)... there will always be tension," Roed-Larsen said after briefing the council on Ban's recent report calling on Hezbollah to give up its arms.
Hezbollah rejected Ban's report, arguing that it is not a militia, but "a Lebanese resistance movement that defends its territory."
The UN report was released shortly after Israel accused Syria of supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles. Damascus has denied the charges.
On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused Iran and Syria of arming Hezbollah with increasingly sophisticated rockets and missiles, saying the militia's arsenal undermined stability in the region.
But Gates did not say if Syria was supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles as Israel has alleged.
"The United States is asking us to accept Israel's alleged superiority to ensure Israel remains capable of launching attacks at its will while we are stripped of the ability to face these aggressions," Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah shot back Wednesday.
"We have no interest in acceding to these attempts to concretize Israeli superiority," Fadlallah added.
Hezbollah is the only Lebanese group that did not disarm after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, arguing its weapons are necessary to fight Israel.
Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006 during which it fired more than 4,000 rockets on the Jewish state.
Israel estimates that Hezbollah has since stockpiled more than 40,000 rockets, some of which could reach major Israeli population centers.

Thursday, April 29th 2010

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