Little Pressure on Hezbollah to Disarm

By HAMZA HENDAWI and HENRY MEYER
The Associated Press
Thursday, September 28, 2006; 2:59 AM

MARJAYOUN, Lebanon -- Six weeks after the end of the Lebanon war, the militant Hezbollah group is facing little on-the-ground pressure to give up its weapons and disarm _ despite a U.N. cease-fire resolution demanding just that.

The leaders of a U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon say the job is not theirs. And Lebanon's ill-equipped army, some of whose soldiers wear tin-pot helmets and carry outdated M-16 rifles, shows no signs of diving into a confrontation with battle-hardened Hezbollah fighters.

For now, all sides say it's likely full disarmament will happen only in the future as part of a political solution _ despite the U.N. resolution that ended the 34-day war on Aug. 14 and required disarmament.

The commanders of the U.N. force say that under the resolution, their job is merely to assist the Lebanese army in regaining control of southern Lebanon and to ensure the area cannot be used for launching rocket attacks into northern Israel.

Meanwhile, Lebanese security officials say the army's mission in the south is based on what they call an "understanding" with Hezbollah that the army will not search for and seize weapons, but only confiscate those shown in public.

At one Lebanese military checkpoint near the town of Marjayoun, some eight miles from the Israeli border, soldiers recently waved most cars through _ although some were stopped so identity papers and registration documents could be checked.

The Lebanese government, which for years allowed Hezbollah to run a "state within a state" in the south, has long argued that disarming the militants could be done only through agreement among the country's major political groups.

Israel says the resolution makes clear that Hezbollah must be disarmed south of the Litani River. Mark Regev, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said of the current situation, "It's a process."

Israeli soldiers have been instructed to shoot Lebanese stone-throwers along the border if they feel their lives are in danger. The order came after dozens of yellow-clad Hezbollah supporters threw stones at Israeli soldiers Friday.

Regev said Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, at a rally last week, "publicly stated that he is out to flout the will of the international community and to prevent the implementation of what was an unanimous resolution of the Security Council."

At the rally in the Beirut suburbs Friday, Nasrallah vowed his guerrillas will not surrender their weapons and said: "There is no army in the world capable of making us drop our weapons as long as there will be people who believe in this resistance."

The current U.N. peacekeeping contingent is far larger and better-armed than a previous 2,000-member force. Some 15,000 troops, more than half from Europe, will eventually be deployed with tanks, artillery cannons and other heavy armor.


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Associated Press