| 14.01,12. 02:31 AM |
Ban Arrives in Beirut, Asks Lebanon to Protect Itself against Terrorism
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Beirut on Friday as part of a three-day visit where he is expected to meet with high-ranking Lebanese officials.
He was welcomed at the Rafik Hariri International Airport by Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas, representing Premier Najib Miqati, Lebanon’s Ambassador to the U.N. Nawwaf Salam, U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon ad interim Robert Watkins, and other officials.
Several dozen people gathered in downtown Beirut on his arrival to denounce the visit and express their support for Hizbullah, backed by neighboring Syria and by Iran.
Ban is accompanied on his trip by Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 Terje Roed-Larsen and U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon commander Major General Alberto Asarta.
The U.N. chief left the airport without issuing a statement.
He later held bilateral talks at the Baabda Palace with President Michel Suleiman.
Afterwards, U.N. and Lebanese delegations held talks at the palace.
Ban left Baabda without issuing a statement.
He is scheduled to hold talks with Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain el-Tineh and Miqati at the Grand Serail later on Friday.
Media reports said the U.N. chief will head to Baabda once again for dinner with Suleiman.
On Saturday, he is scheduled to visit the U.N. peacekeeping command in the South and attend a dinner banquet thrown by Miqati in his honor at the Grand Serail.
He is also slated to attend on Sunday a two-day conference organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on the Arab world's transition to democracy.
In an interview with An Nahar daily on Friday, Ban urged Lebanon to take the necessary measures to protect itself from terrorism and expected the resumption of the National Dialogue to resolve the dispute on “illegitimate arms.”
He said: “Unfortunately, a lot of countries in the world are facing the threat of international terrorism.”
“Lebanon should take measures to protect itself from this threat,” he said in response to a question about complaints by the Assad regime that arms are being smuggled into Syria from Lebanon.
“The Lebanese army and security agencies have done a very good job in preserving security,” the U.N. secretary general said, reiterating his call for the demarcation of the Lebanese-Syrian border.
A controversy erupted in Lebanon last month when Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn said al-Qaida agents were entering the eastern border town of Arsal under the guise of Syrian opposition activists. Syria has also accused the terror network of carrying out bombings in Damascus.
Lebanese officials “are doing the best they can to contain the repercussions of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon,” he told the newspaper.
“The U.N. is keen on Lebanon’s security and stability,” Ban said.
The secretary general also held Syrian President Bashar Assad fully responsible for the protection of the people and upholding their rights. But Ban lamented that Assad “hasn’t yet fulfilled his promises” to stop the deadly crackdown on protestors.
He told An Nahar that he expected the Lebanese government to resolve the problem of “illegitimate weapons,” in reference to the arms of Hizbullah and Palestinian groups.
No state can be successful if it doesn’t have full control on the use of force, he said, adding that he expected the resumption of the all-party talks at Baabda palace to “develop and implement a national defense strategy that deals with the issue of arms outside the control of the state.”
“This cannot happen overnight but steps need to be taken to move the process forward,” he added.
Ban asked Israel to step its violations of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701and said he helped UNIFIL establish a new strategic environment in the South which would provide a window of opportunity for the permanent establishment of ceasefire along the Lebanese-Israeli border.
He hoped that Lebanese authorities would find the culprits behind the bombings that targeted UNIFIL lately and would “bring them to justice as soon as possible.”