UN Chief Expresses Concern Over Hezbollah's Military Wing

Ban Ki-moon, during visit in Beirut, says UN very worried about Hezbollah's arsenal.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday expressed concerns over Hezbollah's arsenal and said weapons outside state control were "unacceptable."

"We are very worried concerning Hezbollah's military wing and we have discussed this issue very seriously" with Lebanese officials, Ban said at a press conference in the capital Beirut.

Ban Ki-moon, March 24 2011

Ban's visit has caused tensions in Lebanon after a Hezbollah member said the UN chief was not welcome.

In a report presented in November to the UN Security Council Ban said all militias, including the Shiite movement, should be disarmed, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, calls for disarming all Lebanese militias, including Hezbollah. But Hezbollah refuses to disarm, saying it needs its weapons to defend Lebanon against Israel.

"It is important for Lebanon to abide by all United Nations resolutions ... It is time to put an end to violence and to grant peoples the chance they need for (a) better future," Ban said.
The UN chief condemned Israel's repeated violations of Lebanon's sovereignty, describing them as a threat to credibility of the UN Interim Force based in southern Lebanon.

In a meeting with Lebanese Premier Nagib Mikati, he promised to discuss the matter with Israeli officials during his upcoming visit to Israel.

Ban said he encouraged Lebanese leaders to "support and cooperate fully" with the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Four Hezbollah members have been accused in the bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others in the Lebanese capital. The Shiite group has called on the Lebanese government to boycott the tribunal and stop funding it.

Ban is to also visit UN peacekeepers positioned near Lebanon's border with Israel. UN Resolution 1701 expanded a UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon to 12,000 troops. The mission was hit by three attacks last year, in which French and Italian soldiers were wounded.

The situation in Syria and its repercussions on Lebanon were discussed in his meetings with Mikati and President Michel Sulieman, Ban said.

Some politicians fear the violence in Syria could spill over to Lebanon. The two countries share a 365-kilometer border.

"The Syrian regime has to respect the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people," Ban said in a an interview the daily An-Nahar earlier. The UN says more than 5,000 people have been killed in the Syrian government's crackdown on protests that erupted in mid-March.