Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hizbullah 'needs its arms' beyond Shebaa

By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Friday, June 20, 2008

BEIRUT: Hizbullah on Thursday said Lebanon would still need its armed presence even if Israel finally quit the disputed Shebaa Farms region in the South. "Any Zionist retreat from the Shebaa Farms would be a big achievement for the resistance for this would be the result of its role and its pressure," Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah was quoted as saying by the state-run National News Agency (NNA).

But any retreat "will not change the fact that Lebanon needs the resistance," he added.

Hizbullah, which forced Israel's pullout from most of South Lebanon in May 2000 after two decades of occupation, sees itself as the legitimate resistance to the Jewish state.

Fadlallah also accused the international community, particularly the United States, of involving itself recently in the Shebaa Farms issue "for aims linked to the resistance" - a reference to demands for Hizbullah to disarm."

"Those who think that putting the Shebaa Farms under international supervision could put pressure on the resistance... delude themselves," he added.

During a surprise visit to Lebanon Monday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she believed it was time to resolve the Shebaa Farms dispute in conformity with Un Security Council Resolution 1701.

The resolution, which ended the 34-day war with Israel in August 2006, was based on a plan drawn up by Western-backed Lebanese Premier Fouad Siniora.

The plan stipulated putting Shebaa under United Nations supervision pending a resolution between Lebanon, Syria and Israel on its legitimate ownership. Beirut, supported by Damascus, claims sovereignty the territory while the Jewish state says it is part of the Syrian Golan Heights which it seized in the 1967 war.

Rice also said during her visit to Beirut that Washington still considered Hizbullah a terrorist organization.

On Thursday, Rice held talks in New York with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon over the Shebaa Farms issue.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner emphasized the importance of addressing the issue of the Shebaa Farms in the framework of the United Nations.

"There is a proposal to grant the United Nations the role of mediator, and this is nothing new," Kouchner said. "I opened the issue of the Lebanese Shebaa Farms with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday evening over dinner," Kouchner told reporters Thursday. The talks were not easy, he added.

Also tackling the issue of the Shebaa Farms, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem welcomed the possible Israeli withdrawal from the region under American pressure.

"We are with the Israeli withdrawal from Arab land, whether it is called Shebaa, Golan or Jerusalem," he said.

In other news, Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea also discussed the Shebaa Farms question on Thursday, saying that he "senses American and European pressure to resolve" the issue of occupied Lebanese territory. The LF chief added that "should Israel withdraw from Lebanon and should the release of Lebanese detainees in Israel is completed, our country will find itself at a new stage."

Geagea added that the LF is "against direct peace talks with Israel at the moment - Lebanon is a special case. Once there is peace between Israel and Palestine, Syria and the [Arab world], Lebanon's role may come." - AFP, with The Daily Star

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