Lebanon`s Hariri urges more UN pressure on Israel

Lebanese PM Hariri insists on "full implementation" of UNSC resolution 1701.

New York: Lebanon`s prime minister urged the UN chief on Sunday to increase pressure on Israel to end all violations of Lebanese borders, and to help prevent it from exploiting Lebanese oil and gas, a Lebanese official said.

In a one-hour meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a New York hotel, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri insisted on the "full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1701”, a member of Hariri`s delegation said on condition of anonymity.

UN Security Council resolution 1701 halted hostilities in the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006 and banned all unauthorised weapons between the Litani River and the Blue Line, the UN-monitored border between Israel and Lebanon.

It also called on Israel to halt unauthorised flights over Lebanese territory, though the United Nations says the Jewish state regularly sends aircraft over Lebanon.

Hariri "requested the utmost pressure on Israel to cease its violations in the air, on land and at sea”, the source said. "He also said Lebanon is relying on the United Nations to prevent Israeli infringement of Lebanon`s exclusive economic zone, including regarding oil and gas resources."

Lebanon sent Ban a letter last week asking him to ensure that Israel`s plans to drill for gas in the Mediterranean Sea do not encroach on its own offshore reserves.

But Ban`s spokesman Martin Nesirky has said resolution 1701 does not cover delineating Lebanon`s maritime border.

Nesirky confirmed in a statement that Ban and Hariri discussed "the need to end Israeli air violations." He said they also touched on a UN tribunal`s investigation into the 2005 bombing that killed Hariri`s father Rafik al-Hariri, a powerful Sunni Muslim politician.

Tensions over UN tribunal

"The Secretary-General reiterated his support for the work of the (Hariri) tribunal, and stressed that it is an independent body," Nesirky said. "He (Ban) hoped its work would help end impunity in Lebanon."

Hariri`s government has been paralysed for months by political tension over the UN probe of his father`s murder.

UN diplomats expect members of the Shi`ite militant group Hezbollah, which has ministers in Hariri`s Cabinet, to be named in draft indictments likely to be sent to the pre-trial judge at the Hague-based tribunal this month.

Hezbollah has denied any involvement in Rafik al-Hariri`s killing. It has dismissed the five-year investigation into the bombing as politicised and urged Prime Minister Hariri to denounce the tribunal -- a demand he has so far resisted.

Hariri met on Friday with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who voiced her support for the Hariri tribunal and for Lebanon`s sovereignty and independence, a source said.

Sources close to the Lebanese delegation said Hariri was planning to meet with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who had back surgery in New York last month, before leaving the United States.

Saudi Arabia and Syria, which have traditionally backed rival camps in Lebanon, have worked since July on proposals to try to ease tension over the tribunal.

Bureau Report