Lebanon News

Livni hints at renewed conflict if Hizbullah fails to disarm

BEIRUT: Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has warned of a new conflict with Lebanon if Hizbullah does not disarm. Tensions between Israel and Lebanon have remained at a fever pitch since Israel launched a 34-day war on this country in the summer of 2006 after Hizbullah took two Israeli soldiers prisoner. A cessation of hostilities was put in place by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which called, among other things, for the prohibition of armed groups in South Lebanon outside of official national institutions and UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, the disarmament of Hizbullah and for Israel to respect the territorial integrity of Lebanon.

However, Hizbullah has retained its weapons and Israel routinely violates Lebanese airspace. The Jewish state also continues to occupy the Lebanese side of the border village of Ghajar and the Shebaa Farms, which Lebanon claims as its own. Israel and the UN, meanwhile, have said that the Farms are Syrian.

In an interview Tuesday night with Al-Arabiyya television, Livni, who is seen as the most likely successor to scandal-plagued Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the Lebanese government and the international community were obligated to prevent Hizbullah from adding to its arsenal, and that if Syria wanted to make peace with the Jewish state, it had to stop arming the group.

"I do not need to meet with the Syrians," Livni told Al-Arabiyya, adding that she did not know when the next round of indirect, Turkish-mediated peace negotiations would take place.

Israel and Syria launched talks in May, after 60 years of being in a state of war with one other. Syrian President Bashar Assad said earlier that a fifth round of talks had been postponed due to the resignation of an Israeli negotiator. Dubai-based satellite channel Al-Arabiyya is due to air Livni's complete interview during iftar Thursday.

When contacted by The Daily Star, Hizbullah officials said they "had no comment at this time" on Livni's remarks.

The Israeli minister's comments came after Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday any Israeli attack on Lebanon depended on regional issues such as Iran's nuclear work and Israeli-Syrian peace talks.

"I cannot say when Israel is going to attack Lebanon, if it is going to be soon or not. It depends on regional events and circumstances," he told Iranian state television.

In its session on Tuesday, Lebanon's Cabinet demanded that Israel adhere to UN resolutions on pending issues with Lebanon. Information Minister Tarek Mitri said the issues were "all non-negotiable issues ... governed by international resolutions to which Israel is subject."

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Mitri said Israel was required to withdraw its land forces from all Lebanese territory, hand over mine and cluster-munitions maps, and end its illegal overflights of Lebanon.

Also on Tuesday, Israel's Defense Ministry urged reserve generals working overseas to return to Israel due to the threat of abduction by Hizbullah, unidentified Israeli officials said. The warning was issued for reservists based mainly in Africa and follows a travel advisory in August cautioning Israelis that Hizbullah might carry out kidnapping operations.





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