Mikati welcomes U.N. remarks on border incidents

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Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati talks during an interview with Reuters at the Grand Serail, the government headquarters in Beirut March 12, 2013. Mikati urged Arab states to help Lebanon cope with a flood of Syrian refugees who are stretching its scarce resources and will need at least $370 million in support this year.
Picture taken March 12, 2013. To match Interview SYRIA-CRISIS/LEBANON REUTERS/Jamal Saidi (LEBANON - Tags: POLITICS PROFILE)" />

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati described the U.N. Security Council’s remarks about incidents on the border and arms smuggling between Lebanon and Syria as constructive while Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea called for the deployment of peacekeepers there.

“The statement that was released yesterday by the Security Council is welcomed, it is constructive and we agree with it and we take all that [was mentioned] into consideration,” Mikati told reporters following talks with Speaker Nabih Berri in the latter’s Ain el-Tineh residence.

In a statement released Thursday, the U.N. Security Council expressed deep concern over the impact on Lebanon from the crisis in Syria.

"[The 15-member-state council] underscored their grave concern over repeated incidents of cross-border fire which caused death and injury among the Lebanese population, incursions, abductions and arms trafficking across the Lebanese-Syrian border, as well as other border violations.”

Council members “appealed to all Lebanese people to preserve national unity in the face of attempts to undermine the country’s stability and stressed the need for all Lebanese parties to respect Lebanon’s policy of disassociation and to refrain from any involvement in the Syrian crisis.

Meanwhile, Geagea reiterated a demand from the March 14 coalition to deploy peacekeepers with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon along the border with Syria.

“The situation on the Lebanese-Syrian border is worrisome particularly after the recent threats issued by Bashar Assad's regime to target and attack the border towns,” Geagea said on his Twitter feed, urging the government to hold an emergency meeting to deploy the Army.

“If the numbers and equipment of the Army is not enough then the government should ask the Security Council to implement Article 11 and 14 of 1701 to expand the mandate of the international forces,” he added.

Articles 11 and 14 call on UNIFIL to assist the government of Lebanon upon its request to "secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel."

UNIFIL, however, has said that expanding the mandate of the peacekeeping force on the border with Syria requires the approval of the Security Council, arguing that Resolution 1701 is limited to the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line with Israel.

The border between Lebanon and Syria is poorly demarcated with some 36 contested points.

Syria has said that arms and gunmen have been smuggled into Syria from its neighboring country with Damascus, warning Thursday it could attack rebels in Lebanon.

“Armed terrorist groups have infiltrated in large numbers in the past 36 hours from Lebanese territory into Syrian territory,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry wrote in a letter to its Lebanese counterpart Thursday.

The letter said Syrian forces were still exercising self-restraint by not striking “concentrations of armed gangs inside Lebanese territory in order to prevent them from crossing into Syrian territory.”

“But this will not last indefinitely,” the letter warned.

The Daily Star - Lebanon