Israeli Envoy Meets UNIFIL Chief Over Praise for Hezbollah, Censure for Israel

Maj.-Gen. Graziano calls IAF flights over Lebanon 'permanent violation' of UN resolution 1701.

Ambassador Dan Carmon, head of Israel's UN delegation, met with the commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano on Friday over the remarks he made about Israel.

On Thursday Graziano accused Israel of unilaterally violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, the cease-fire agreement that ended the 34-day Second Lebanon War between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

The UNIFIL chief made his comments at a press conference at UN headquarters in New York. He said that continued Israel Air Force overflights in Lebanese airspace and Israel's refusal to submit maps of areas on which it dropped cluster bombs during the war constituted a "permanent violation of 1701."

Graziano also referred to the village of Ghajar, which sits on the Israel-Lebanon border, as "a permanent area under occupation."

The Italian general, meanwhile, said that Hezbollah recognizes Resolution 1701, and that the militant Lebanese group and UNIFIL forces enjoy excellent cooperation with one another. He added that apart from UN and Lebanese soldiers and local hunters, no one is armed south of the Litani River.

When asked about the smuggling of weapons into Lebanon, Graziano said he could not ensure that the area under his jurisdiction would be impenetrable, though he said there is no evidence of arms smuggling nor has there been movement of armed gunmen.

Graziano would not comment on the newly sworn-in Lebanese cabinet whose guidelines state that Hezbollah has the right to "liberate occupied lands," but he did say it was important for Lebanon to carry out its obligations as well.

The United States has expressed anger at the new Lebanese president, Michel Suleiman, and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for yielding to Hezbollah's demands on various matters.

Israeli defense officials have said the new Lebanese government platform is a worrisome development that attests to Hezbollah's growing strength as well as the continuing disintegration of resolution 1701.

Israeli defense officials believe Hezbollah is seeking a new pretext for prolonging its armed struggle with Israel. One of the possibilities being examined by the Shi'ite organization is attempting to down Israel Air Force planes during their sorties over Lebanon.