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Syria dismisses heavily amended UN resolution as a 'failure'

Six Security Council members abstain from vote..


By Cilina Nasser and Khalil Fleihan

Daily Star staff

Saturday, September 04, 2004

BEIRUT: Syria said Friday a US-French draft resolution targeting Damascus and Beirut was a failure, because it was heavily amended before being approved by the UN Security Council.

Syria's envoy to the UN Fayssal al-Mekdad said Paris and Washington "failed dramatically" in their mission to pass the original draft of the resolution, because they were compelled to rewrite it to win its adoption at the Security Council.

The council approved early Friday the draft resolution, which called for a respect for Lebanon's sovereignty, after dropping a threat to consider "additional measures" if Beirut and Damascus refused to comply.

Another amendment was made to the second point in the resolution. In the final draft, the Security Council "calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon."

Unlike the initial draft, Syria is not mentioned by name. Beirut says over 17,000 Syrian troops were invited in to help the Lebanese government stabilize the country after 15 years of war that ended in 1990.

Therefore, the "foreign forces" mentioned in the resolution could be interpreted by Lebanon to be Israeli troops, who still occupy the Shebaa Farms area located on the foothills of Mount Hermon.

Lebanon and Syria say the area is Lebanese and that the Israelis have to pull out of it, but Israel says it belongs to Syria and, therefore, links its fate to the Golan Heights, which the Jewish state occupied in 1967.

The second point in the final draft also changed a "demand" for foreign troops to leave Lebanon into a "call." With these amendments, a diplomat at the UN in New York told The Daily Star that "it's more likely a Chapter VI resolution."

This chapter of the UN Charter calls for a pacific settlement of disputes, such as by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means.

Resolutions under Chapter VII allow the imposition of sanctions and military actions against countries not complying with Security Council measures.

Mekdad told reporters after the council vote that the measure would have no impact and has become "merely an expression" of interference in the internal affairs of a country.

"The resolution ... lacks the main points that the draft had sought against Syria and does not call for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon," said a Syrian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman,Bushra Kanafani.

The resolution was approvedby the Security Council by the minimum vote needed- nine to zero with six abstentions.

Two veto-wielding permanent members of the council, China and Russia, abstained, along with four rotating members: Algeria, Pakistan, Brazil and the Philippines. Representatives of those countries explained their position by saying the resolution touched on Lebanon's internal affairs, in contravention to the UN Charter.

The resolution was put to a vote a day before Lebanon's parliament was scheduled to amend the constitution to allow President Emile Lahoud to stay in power for another three years in response to Syrian wishes.

China's representative, Wang Guangya, said the question of the Lebanese presidential elections fell within Lebanon's internal affairs and should be decided by the Lebanese people themselves, according to a press statement issued by the Security Council after the vote.

Russian representative Andrey Denisov said a wrong step might lead to a new focal point of instability.

"He had tabled amendments to the text, aimed at moving it towards the context of a Mideast settlement as a whole and preventing the document from being one-sided and from concentrating solely on domestic Lebanese affairs," said the statement.

Pakistani representative, Munir Akram called the resolution inconsistent with the council's functions and responsibilities, as there was no evidence of any urgent threat to peace. He said there had been no complaint from the country whose sovereignty and integrity the draft purported to uphold. On the contrary, the Lebanese representatives had communicated to the Council their opposition to consideration of the resolution, he said.

"Besides, the text addressed the wrong threat," said Akram, adding that if there were a threat to Lebanon, it was well known and did not arise from Syria, presumably referring to Israel.

Abdullah Baali, the Algeria's representative - the only Arab country on the Council - said it was Israel and its repression of the Palestinians, which constituted an undeniable threat to international peace and security.

That should have required urgent consideration and effective measures on the part of the Security Council, he said.

Baali said he hoped to see the Council display toward Israel the same firmness shown today toward Lebanon, by demanding Israel's withdrawal from Arab lands.

Baali also said the council must not interfere in the internal affairs of states or in bilateral affairs between states. He considered the council's consideration of an internal Lebanese matter harmful precedent" which must not be repeated, unless the council was to be led into serious excesses, running counter to the UN Charter.

Only a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement can bring about a definitive peace in the Middle East, he said.

Mohammed Issa, the secretary-general of Lebanon's Foreign Ministry, had requested the Council to withdraw its consideration of the resolution before the vote.

He said that Syria had helped Lebanon to maintain stability and security within its borders, and that Syrian troops had been deployed and redeployed at Lebanon's request, and that they had contributed to deterring Israeli actions.-