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Saturday March 13, 2010 7:49 AM (EST+7)
UN worried by war of words between Israel, Lebanon

Read more: United Nations, Lebanon-Israel conflict, Israel-Lebanon conflict, Lebanon, UNIFIL

UNITED NATIONS, March 12 (Louis Charbonneau/Reuters) - A recent wave of bellicose rhetoric between Israel and Lebanon has fueled fears the two hostile neighbors could be headed for another conflict, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon said on Friday.

Exchanges of threats between Israel and neighboring Lebanon have generated concerns of a renewed confrontation, Michael Williams told reporters after briefing the 15-nation Security Council on compliance with resolution 1701, which called for an end to Israel's war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.

This rhetoric and brinkmanship contravenes the very spirit of 1701 and is utterly unhelpful, he said. I have called, and still call, on all relevant parties to desist from inflammatory statements.

Williams said that Israeli and Lebanese officials have told him privately that they remain committed to peace.

Lebanese and Syrian officials have been accusing Israel of pushing for a new war in the Middle East against the backdrop of an Iranian nuclear program that Israel considers a threat to its very survival.

Iran rejects Israeli and Western allegations that its nuclear program is a covert plan to acquire an atomic weapons capability. The oil-producing nation says its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this year that Israel was not planning any imminent attack on Lebanon, from where Hezbollah launched some 4,000 rockets at it during a 34-day war in 2006.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, was recently quoted by Israel's Haaretz newspaper as saying that Hezbollah now has some 45,000 missiles and rockets in Lebanon, higher than previous estimates.

We don't need this conflict but if it is imposed upon us, we will not run after every individual terrorist but we will take... the Lebanese government and the Lebanese infrastructure as part of the equation facing us, he was quoted as saying.


The leader of the Lebanese militant guerrilla group Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said last month that his Shi'ite organization would hit Israel's Ben Gurion airport if the Jewish state once again attacked Beirut's international airport in any future war.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Islamist group backed by Syria and Iran, is in Lebanon's government.

Lebanese authorities have also complained about Israeli espionage in Lebanon and have arrested dozens of people on suspicion of spying for Israel.

The 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah broke out after the group captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. Some 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, were killed and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, died.

Williams said that although situation along the blue line -- the UN-monitored border between Israel and Lebanon -- remained calm, there were continued apparent violations of resolution 1701 by Israelis and Lebanese.

He said Israel was guilty of regular intrusions into Lebanese airspace and needed to stop them. These violations raise tensions and may trigger an incident that I remain convinced the parties do not want, he said.

Lebanon, Williams said, needed to look into its side's violations of a U.N. arms embargo. Israeli and other Western officials say Hezbollah continues to receive illegal arms shipments from Syria and Iran. (Reporting by Louis Charbonneau, editing by Anthony Boadle)







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