Rice said Hizbullah needs to disarm or face international pressure
Lebanon-Israel-USA, Politics, 8/16/2006
If Hizbullah refuses to cooperate with the Lebanese government and disarm, both the militant organization and its foreign sponsors will face isolation from the international community, according to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"This time, we'll make it very clear; if there is resistance to the obligations that the Lebanese government has undertaken, then there will be a problem and Hizbullah will have to face the international community and Hizbullah supporters will have to face the international community," Rice told USA Today yesterday. She specified that by "Hizbullah supporters," she means Syria and Iran.
Under the terms of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which brought an end to a month of fighting between Hizbullah and Israel, the Lebanese government is expected to deploy 15,000 troops to Hizbullah's stronghold in southern Lebanon alongside an enhanced UN peacekeeping force of 15,000 troops. The resolution also states that there should be no independent armed groups in Lebanon outside of government security forces.
Rice explained that the UN forces would not be involved directly in disarming Hizbullah. "You have to have a plan, first of all, for the disarmament of a militia, and then the hope is that some people lay down their arms voluntarily," she said. "The disarmament of militias is essentially a political agreement and the Lebanese government has said that it intends to live up to its obligations under Resolution 1559 and something called the Taif Accords, which was signed in 1989 in Saudi Arabia."
Security Council resolution 1559, adopted in 2004, and the Taif Accords, which put an end to Lebanon's 15-year civil war, both called for the disarming of all militias, but Hizbullah continually has resisted those long-standing demands.
"Now we will see whether Hizbullah, which... after all, has ministers in the Lebanese government, is prepared to live up to those international obligations. We will see who is for peace and who isn't," Rice said.
She said Hizbullah's presence in the Lebanese government makes the group's responsibilities to that government and to the government's international obligations clearer and more difficult to resist. If Hizbullah does resist, she said, the group would come under tremendous international pressure, particularly from the European community, which has yet to designate the group as a terrorist organization, but might do so if it refuses to cooperate.
Rice outlined considerations that would make it difficult for Hizbullah to resist the government's demands. She said Hizbullah is in a much weaker position now than it was a month ago. She said its military capabilities have been degraded, and that the international arms embargo imposed by resolution 1701 will make it difficult for the group to rearm. She also said the deployment of the Lebanese army and UN forces to the south will dislodge the group from its strategic positions along the Lebanese-Israeli border.
The secretary expressed doubt that Hizbullah's actions during the month long conflict with Israel would be viewed as successful in the long term.
"Exactly what did they achieve? They achieved the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese. They achieved the destruction of Lebanese infrastructure and housing and neighborhoods. They achieved... what has not been achieved before, the movement of the Lebanese army into the south to displace them with an international force that this time will be robust enough to defend its mandate. That's what they achieved. Now perhaps that stands as a great achievement for Hizbullah. I would submit it doesn't," she said. "I would suggest that when the dust clears, Hizbullah has a lot to answer for."
In contrast, Rice praised Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora for his dignity and strength in dealing with the crisis. "Prime Minister Siniora is someone who, with great dignity and great aplomb, has led his people out of that terrible situation, not of his own making, to, I think, an international standing that is quite remarkable," she said.
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