Annan Says Syria Will Aid Arms Embargo

Saturday, September 2, 2006

DAMASCUS, Syria, Sept. 1 -- U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said Friday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had promised to enforce an arms embargo on Hezbollah under a U.N. resolution that halted Israel's war with the Lebanese Shiite militia.

"The president informed me that Syria supports Security Council Resolution 1701 and will help in its implementation," Annan told reporters after talks with Assad.

"While stating Syrian objections to the presence of foreign forces along the Syrian-Lebanese border, the president committed to me that Syria will take all necessary measures to implement in full Paragraph 15 of the resolution," Annan added, referring to a provision that bans illegal arms shipments to Lebanon.

Annan said Syria would beef up border security and was ready to run joint patrols with the Lebanese army.

Syrian leaders have been angered by an Israeli demand for international troops to deploy on the Lebanese-Syrian border, the main conduit in the past for Hezbollah weapons and supplies. Lebanon, which has sent 8,600 soldiers to patrol the frontier, says it has no plans to ask U.N. troops to join them.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told reporters that "no arms are being smuggled to the resistance from Syria."

On the sidelines of a conference in Italy, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres repeated Israel's demand for U.N. verification of procedures on the Syrian-Lebanese border.

"There must be a way to verify. . . . Now if this would be solved, and I think the secretary general of the United Nations is looking for ways and means to assure it, then Israel will believe it," he told a news conference in Cernobbio, Italy.

The party of Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said in a statement Friday that Lebanese security officials last Saturday night allowed arms and ammunition to enter the country from Syria at the Masnaa crossing point.

Jumblatt, speaking to al-Arabiya television, added: "Several convoys crossed the Syrian-Lebanese border a week ago at night . . . especially a convoy that was seized by the Lebanese army with 1,500 kilograms of dynamite, of TNT. These materials are not meant to fight Israel. These are materials for sabotage in Lebanon."

Lebanese military and security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity denied the allegations. "There have not been any attempts to bring in explosives from Syria to Lebanon," one said.

Annan later arrived in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, the only Arab state currently with a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

On Saturday, Annan is expected to press Iran to help shore up the Hezbollah-Israel cease-fire, but diplomats say the talks will also cover Iran's nuclear standoff with the West.

Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Annan on his week-long Middle East trip, said by telephone from Qatar's capital, Doha, that the main purpose of the visit to Tehran was to discuss Lebanon.

But Fawzi said, "Certainly the issue of the [Iranian] nuclear program will be visited."

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