Chirac warns: fighting could easily spark again in Lebanon

28th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 28, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac warned on Monday that fighting could resume in Lebanon without a lasting settlement, as he urged Iran to build the "conditions for trust" in its stand-off with the West.

PARIS, Aug 28, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac warned on Monday that fighting could resume in Lebanon without a lasting settlement, as he urged Iran to build the "conditions for trust" in its stand-off with the West.

In a wide-ranging foreign policy speech, Chirac urged all parties in the conflict to help secure a long-term settlement in Lebanon, two weeks into a fragile ceasefire between Israel and the Shiite militia Hezbollah.

"The choice is between a resumption of hostilities, creating a permanent rift between two neighbouring peoples, and the political option of a global and lasting settlement," he told an annual meeting of French ambassadors in Paris.

Chirac urged Israel to end its air and sea blockade of Lebanon, saying the measure — intended to cut Hezbollah's supply lines — was "seriously harming" the economy. He also called for the holding of an international conference to address the aid situation following 34 days of bloodshed.

Under UN resolution 1701, which ended the fighting, a robust international force is to deploy in south Lebanon.

European Union states have so far pledged nearly 7,000 troops, nearly half the envisaged total of 15,000.

France — which co-sponsored the text — is to command the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) until February, when Italy will take over, and is sending 2,000 soldiers to form one of its biggest contingents.

Chirac said the UN text provided "the framework for a lasting settlement based on Israel's security and Lebanon's sovereignty over its whole territory."

It "outlines a process which must lead to the disarmament of militias and the settlement of border questions, including that of the Shebaa Farms," a disputed territory controlled by Israel, Chirac said.

Israel captured the small, mountainous territory between Lebanon, Syria and Israel in the June 1967 Middle East war, but it is now claimed by Beirut with the backing of Damascus.

Chirac appealed directly to Syria — Hezbollah's key backer along with Iran — to help secure a lasting peace in the region.

He urged Damascus to "move beyond its isolationist logic", saying the Middle East "needs Syria to be active in the service of peace and regional stability."

Concerning the stand-off over Iran's nuclear programme — which Washington suspects is a cover for weapons development — Chirac also said Iran had a duty "to ease the concerns of others and work towards regional stability, as befits a major, responsible country."

"I exhort Tehran once more to take the necessary steps in order to create the conditions for trust," he said. "There is always room for dialogue."

"Iran will not find security by developing clandestine programmes, but by becoming fully part of the international community."

Iran is under pressure from the international community to suspend its programme of uranium enrichment, and the UN Security Council has given it until August 31 to comply or face the threat of sanctions.

Tehran on Sunday underscored its determination to produce nuclear fuel but said it still sought talks on Western concerns about its nuclear programme.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is due to travel from Lebanon to both Tehran and Damascus later this week, as part of a Middle East tour that will also take him to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Chirac called for a rapid meeting of the Middle East quartet — EU, UN, United States and Russia — to relaunch the stalled peace process as a key to regional stability.

"To accept the status-quo is to risk an escalation of violence that would escape all control," Chirac told the ambassadors' conference, saying the "commitment of the international community" was "key" to the peace process.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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