BEIRUT: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said on Thursday that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) "has found no evidence" of Hizbullah rearming south of the Litani River. In a report issued to the UN Security Council, the seventh of its kind, Ban addressed the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701, which put an end to the 34-day summer 2006 war with Israel.
"Israel maintains that Hizbullah is significantly rebuilding its military presence and capacity, inside UNIFIL's area of operations. At times the Israeli military has provided UNIFIL with information about locations in which it claims that these activities take place," Ban said. "To date, UNIFIL has found no evidence of new military infrastructure in the area of operations.
Resolution 1701 was unanimously approved by the United Nations Security Council on August 11, 2006. The Lebanese Cabinet, which included two members of Hizbullah, unanimously approved the resolution the next day.
The resolution called for a cessation of hostilities, a pullout of Israeli forces from Lebanon in parallel with Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers deploying in the South. It also calls for the disarmament of Hizbullah and forbids the presence of paramilitary forces south of the Litani.
Ban said reports of Hizbullah rearming were the cause of great concern. "Such reports pose serious challenges to the sovereignty, stability and independence of Lebanon and the implementation of Resolution 1701," he said.
He added that Iran and Syria had a "key responsibility" to preserve the arms embargo imposed by Resolution 1701.
The report said that the UN was also concerned about "heavily armed military posi-tions" maintained by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command and Fatah al-Intifada along the Lebanese-Israeli border.
The UN chief also expressed concerns over "unabated" Israeli air violations, "often without any regard for the levels of tension and anger that these actions trigger on the ground.
"These repeated violations of Resolution 1701 undermine the credibility of the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL in the eyes of the local population and, in doing so, UNIFIL's ability to carry out its mandate," Ban said.
He added that the Israeli government informed the UN were "a necessary security measure" that will continue until its two abducted soldiers are released in line with Resolution 1701.
Ban said that during the reporting period, there were "three different instances" of Israeli soldiers pointing their weapons, including infra-red targeting devices, in the direction of UNIFIL patrols.
Ban also said the 15-month-old political impasse in Lebanon has complicated efforts to achieve further progress on key aspects of Resolution 1701.
"During the reporting period, Lebanon remained in the grip of an intense political crisis, which had impeded the normal functioning of the legitimate constitutional institutions," he added.
Ban also saluted the association between UNIFIL and LAF, "which has increased during the reporting period."
"Such cooperation has contributed significantly to the general calm that continues to prevail in UNIFIL's area of operations," he added.
Tackling the issue of cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnance, Ban said the UN Mine Action Coordination Center continues clearing efforts in the South. He also warned against the "huge threat" such munitions pose for civilians, noting that they continue to kill and maim long after the war ended.