8 February 2007Expressing deep concern after Lebanon’s armed forces and Israeli troops exchanged fire across the Blue Line that separates the two countries, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for maximum restraint, warning that such actions violate last year’s Security Council resolution that ended the month of fighting in the region. Later in the day the Council itself echoed this concern in a press statement on Wednesday’s incident, which occurred in the area of Yaroun. The 15-member body looked forward to a tripartite meeting called for by the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the peacekeeping operation in the area which was greatly enhanced last year by Council resolution 1701 that ended the conflict between Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon.“The exchange of fire, which was initiated by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) after an IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) bulldozer crossed the technical fence in an apparent attempt to clear the area between the technical fence and the Blue Line of mines, constitutes a breach of the cessation of hostilities as laid out in Security Council resolution 1701,” a spokesperson for Mr. Ban told reporters in New York.“All such violations of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) endanger the fragile calm that prevails in southern Lebanon. The Secretary-General calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint, avoid provocative actions and display responsibility in implementing resolution 1701 (2006).” UNIFIL had deployed to the area immediately after hostilities began and was in contact with both sides urging them to cease, said spokesperson Michele Montas, adding that Mr. Ban is also calling on them to make use of the tripartite mechanism to avoid similar incidents in the future.Speaking to reporters after the Security Council heard a briefing on the incident, Ambassador Peter Burian of Slovakia, which this month holds the revolving presidency, said Council members reaffirmed their support for UNIFIL and also reiterated their call for the full implementation of resolution 1701.“The members of the Council expressed deep concern about this incident. They look forward to the ascertaining of all the facts by UNIFIL and to the forthcoming tripartite meeting asked for by UNIFIL Force Commander,” he said.“The members of the Council appealed to all parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety, to exercise utmost restraint and to refrain from any action that could further escalate the situation.”The enhanced UNIFIL, which is monitoring the end of hostilities after last year’s conflict, as well as carrying out de-mining and other humanitarian work, now numbers over 12,000 although resolution 1701 allows its strength to reach a maximum of 15,000 troops, while also mandating a complete Israeli withdrawal, together with Lebanese army deployment in southern Lebanon. It is commanded by Major-General Claudio Graziano.
India’s DMK party chief M. Karunanidhi today said that DMK MPs and members of the pro-Tamil TESO will meet envoys of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group of countries, scheduled to meet in London on April 26, to demand that CHOGM not be held in Sri Lanka.DMK, which has been opposing Sri Lanka as the venue for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) slated for November, said in a statement that its representatives will call on the CMAG members to press their demand, the Press Trust of India reported. The DMK, which walked out of the UPA coalition over the Lankan Tamils issue last month, had in the executive also demanded that India boycott the meeting in case it was held in the island republic.Members of Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organisation (TESO), a once defunct organisation revived last year by Karunanidhi, include his son M.K. Stalin and Viduthalai Chiruthaaigal Katchi founder-leader and Lok Sabha MP, Thol. Thirumavalavan. The 88-year-old leader recalled that his party executive had adopted a resolution in this regard on March 25. “I insist that the demand not to hold (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka should be discussed in detail and a decision is taken. DMK MPs and TESO members will meet the envoys of member countries of CMAG and explain in detail that the meeting should not be held in Sri Lanka,” Karunanidhi said.