The United Nations Security Council on Friday rebuked Beirut by declaring that the disputed Har Div or Shaba Farms area was not part of Lebanon in a resolution that also extended the mandate of UN peacekeepers for six months.
The document, drafted by France and co-sponsored by the United States, Britain, Denmark and Greece, was adopted unanimously by the 15-member council, although Russia and Algeria as well as Lebanon voiced criticism.
For the first time in years, the Security Council mentioned Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report in May 2000 that verified Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon behind a UN-drawn frontier, called the "blue line." This frontier put the Shaba Farms in Syria.
The resolution said the "continually asserted position" by Beirut was "not compatible" with past council resolutions or reports by Annan. Beirut contends the Shaba Farms are part of Lebanon and still occupied by Israel.
Israel entered Lebanon in 1978 and launched a full-scale invasion in 1982. From 1985 until its withdrawal in May 2000, the IDF occupied part of southern Lebanon, the so-called security zone.
The United Nations drew the blue line to mark Israel's withdrawal, rather than stipulate a permanent border. It said Lebanon and Syria were free to change their colonial era boundaries but they have not done so.
A 2,000-member peacekeeping force, known as the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, has been in the country since 1978 and is stationed in the south. Its new mandate expires on July 31.
Without mentioning the Shaba Farms by name, Lebanon's deputy UN ambassador, Ibrahim Assaf, said the council "selectively highlighted passages from the secretary-general's report," and contended that "these elements could have a detrimental effect on peace and security."
But France's envoy Michel Duclos said, "The blue line remains the agreed reference for the international community."
The resolution also said Lebanon should "extend and exercise its sole authority in the south," a reference to the militant group Hezbollah, which dominates the south and exchanges fire with Israel in the Shaba Farms area.
Anne Patterson, the U.S. acting ambassador, told the council that the biggest impediment to peacekeeping was "the continued specter of armed militias in southern Lebanon, coupled with the Lebanese government's unwillingness to assert its sole and effective control over all its territory."
She said that Lebanon's position that the blue line was invalid is not compatible with Security Council resolutions and in any case is no excuse for allowing Hezbollah to engage in violence along and across the blue line."
But Algeria's UN ambassador, Abdallah Baali, agreed with Lebanon that the resolution introduced "political elements."
And Russia's deputy ambassador, Alexander Konuzin, said the resolution was geared to put pressure on Beirut and "oblige it to find solutions to questions it simply cannot solve."
Diplomats said that the tough stance on Friday by France and the United States in the resolution was in part aimed at Syria and its allies in Lebanon.
Washington and Paris had engineered a resolution in September telling Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon and refrain from Lebanese affairs. They sought unsuccessfully to head off a constitutional amendment that extended the term of Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud.
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