Lebanon

Fifth semi-annual report of the UN SG on the implementation of SC resolution 1559 (2004) (S/2007/262)

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I. Introduction

1. The present report is my fifth semi-annual report to the Security Council on the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004).

2. In the past six months, Lebanon has continued to witness prolonged political uncertainty, with the issue of the creation of a special tribunal for Lebanon in the context of the work of the International Independent Investigation Commission moving increasingly centre stage.

3. Political consultations among Lebanese leaders to resolve their differences began on 6 November 2006. Amidst their collapse, the Shiite members of the Cabinet resigned from the Government on 11 November. A further minister resigned on 13 November. Tension rose further with the approval of a draft statutory agreement on the special tribunal with an international character on 13 November, and then the finalized statutory agreement on 25 November by the remaining members of the Cabinet.

4. The opposition, consisting of Amal, Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement, as well as President Lahoud, have maintained that the Cabinet no longer enjoys constitutional legitimacy. The Government continues to meet and function, since it continues to enjoy the support of a parliamentary majority. In addition, the Government maintains that since the Prime Minister never formally accepted the resignations submitted to him, they are not valid. In the context of an intensifying debate over the constitutional legitimacy of the remaining Cabinet, supporters of Hizbullah, Amal, and the Free Patriotic Movement began staging a sit-in at the Prime Minister's office in downtown Beirut from 1 December, which endures to the present day.

5. The demonstrations have on occasion led to violent clashes between supporters of the opposition forces and those of the Government. Early in December, one person was killed in the context of such clashes. On 23 January 2007, 3 people were killed and over 100 injured when a general strike was called and the country left in paralysis. Two days later, as donors assembled in Paris and pledged their assistance to Lebanon's reconstruction effort after the war of last summer, clashes at a Beirut university campus turned violent, leaving 4 people dead and over 150 injured. Renewed clashes also occurred in rural parts of the Beqaa Valley in February.

6. A variety of parties and actors have undertaken commendable efforts to mediate between the opposing sides in Lebanon. The laudable visits and efforts by the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States and a praiseworthy initiative pursued by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia laid the foundations for talks between the leader of the parliamentary majority, Saad Hariri, and the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, in early to mid-March. The crisis is yet to be resolved, however, and the standoff that paralyses Lebanon continues.

7. Twice in the last four months, petitions signed by a majority of the members of Parliament and expressing their support for the holding of a parliamentary session to ratify the establishment of the international tribunal have been submitted to me. Parliament has not met since the end of the fall session, and is yet to launch its regular spring session deliberations, which formally began on 22 March 2007, as the Speaker has not called for the convening of the assembly. Against this background, the Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, sent me a letter dated 10 April, requesting that in the light of the "paralysis" of the Lebanese Parliament, the Security Council "examine alternative ways and means that will ensure the establishment without delay, of the special tribunal for Lebanon, which is essential for the safeguarding of liberties and deterring further political assassinations".

8. On 21 November 2006, the Industry Minister, Pierre Gemayel, the scion of one of Lebanon's most prominent political families, was assassinated by gunmen in Beirut. On 13 February 2007, three people were killed when two buses were successively bombed near the village of Bikfaya. Seventeen people were injured. The members of the Security Council condemned these acts and, on both occasions, reaffirmed their previous calls upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently for the full implementation of all relevant resolutions concerning the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, in particular resolutions 1559 (2004), 1595 (2005), 1636 (2005), 1664 (2006), 1680 (2006) and 1701 (2006). My predecessor and I also condemned these atrocities.

9. While a tense calm continues to prevail in Lebanon, the month of March saw an increase in the reported number of security threats and bomb scares. On 26 April, two young men were found dead, three days after having disappeared in a southern Beirut neighbourhood. There have been allegations that the incident may have been linked to sectarian tension.