jeudi 28 juin 2007

UN team finds border security lacking

Security along the Lebanese-Syrian border is "insufficient" to prevent arms smuggling from Syria, a team of experts said in a report issued Wednesday and presented to the Security Council a day earlier. The team, led by Lasse Christensen of Denmark, recommended a radical overhaul of security measures along what the 46-page report called the "Green" border separating the countries.

"The present state of border security is insufficient to prevent smuggling, in particular of arms, to any significant extent," the report said.

Five international security experts known as the UN Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team (LIBAT) spent three weeks in Lebanon probing allegations of arms smuggling across the border with Syria.

"Not a single on-border or near-border seizure of smuggled arms has been documented to the team," the team reported.

Neither the government nor the opposition issued an immediate reaction to the report.

The Security Council reiterated last month its "deep concern" at mounting reports of "illegal movements of arms" across the Lebanese Syrian-border, amid fears of escalating strife.

The concern was raised after the council was briefed by UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed Larsen, who drew an "alarming and deeply disturbing picture" of the border situation, citing Lebanese Army reports of "a steady flow of weapons and armed elements across the border from Syria."

The team's mandate was to probe Lebanon's monitoring system along its 320-kilometer border with Syria.

The team did not visit Syria, which has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Syria closed three of its northern border posts following the outbreak of clashes at Nahr al-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli, preventing the team from witnessing operations at the crossings in questions.

The experts, who visited all four official land border points - Arida and Al-Aboudieh in the North and Qaa and Masnaa in the east - as well as Beirut's airport and seaport, acknowledged the difficulty of monitoring numerous unchecked cross-border trails and pathways that made large-scale smuggling easy.

"On the eastern border, inhabitants rely heavily on cross-border commerce, technically illegal but neither controlled nor prevented by the Lebanese or Syrian border authorities," said the report.

One of the major concerns expressed by the team was the presence of "heavily armed Palestinian military strongholds" on both sides of the border.

The report also said "political sympathies, family/clan connections or traditional corruption" were to blame for what it called a "worrying lack of performance" by border authorities.

In response, the team called for the deployment "of international border-security experts" to back up a new Lebanese "multi-agency mobile force" that would be tasked with doing a better job of stemming the arms smuggling.

The report said that current management of the border by four different Lebanese security agencies "was rather low," and recommended that the agencies get training to gain better skills at coordinating operations and sharing intelligence.

The report also said most of Lebanon's border posts are far from the border, are not fenced or secured by gates, and operate with no clear procedures to determine which goods to inspect - and which people to question.

"Therefore, the ingenious smuggler may find it quite easy to conceal not only explosives, light weapons and ammunition, but also assembled and unassembled heavy weaponry such as missiles and rockets into the country concealed in compartments and panels of cargo trucks and passenger vehicles," the team said.

The report by experts from Denmark, Algeria, Germany, Jamaica and Switzerland largely avoided comment on the touchy issue of Lebanese-Syrian ties, but suggested that Lebanese border officials set up currently lacking cooperation with Syrian counterparts.

Source : The Daily Star

Siniora accuses Syria of sending arms to camps

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora accused Syria on Wednesday of sending arms to Palestinian camps in Lebanon and threatened to raise the issue with the Arab League. Siniora was speaking from Paris the day after independent experts handed the UN Security Council a report saying that Lebanon was largely incapable of preventing arms smuggling from Syria.

The Lebanese premier, who met with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Wednesday, told reporters in France that he had not seen the report to the UN but that it was clear that Syria was sending weapons to two camps.

"In recent weeks these camps have been reinforced with munitions, arms and fighters," he said, adding that one of the outposts was controlled by the Fatah al-Intifada group and another by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. He did not identify the camps.

"Everyone knows that these groups are supported and armed by Syria," Siniora said, echoing allegations leveled earlier this month by UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen.

"This is something I will talk to the Arab League about," Siniora added.

The report's authors said that during a three-week stay in Lebanon they had not heard of any weapons being seized along the border, despite widespread talk of illegal shipments.

Asked whether the Lebanese government was planning to have borders with Syria monitored by Arab or international forces to put an end to the arms smuggling, Siniora said the issue was the responsibility of "both Syria and Lebanon."

"I haven't had a chance to read this report, but we will look at it today and we will certainly take a position that is in the interests of Lebanon," he said.

Source : The Daily Star

mercredi 27 juin 2007

Safety message spreads slowly among refugees

Displaced Nahr al-bared residents call for details

While local and international groups have launched awareness campaigns on the dangers of munitions in the Northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, refugees temporarily based in the Beddawi camp voiced concern Monday that the campaigns were failing to reach some residents.

"We definitely need more awareness on the issue," said Walid Awat, a philosophy teacher from Nahr al-Bared and one of many residents who chose to work with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the United Nations Children's Fund to spread mine awareness.

"At the moment we are working inside schools and the Beddawi camp, but those not living in schools are not getting the information," he said.

The UN, alongside the International Committee for the Red Cross and other local non-governmental organizations, has begun training sessions inside Beddawi for residents of Nahr al-Bared to educate the refugees on the issue of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) left behind by Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese Army.

Awat, having attended two sessions already, described what had been covered so far.

The first session, titled "Don't Get Near, Don't Touch, Tell Someone," explained what people should look out for and what to do [and not do] if they stumble across suspicious or strange-looking objects. The second session was more specific, dividing the camp into small sections and assigning certain individuals to be in charge of each area.

"I would say about 50 to 60 percent of the population is now aware of the situation and its seriousness, but there is always the concern that people will not take it seriously enough," Awat said. "We are telling people to stay away from the camp until it gets the 'all-clear' from the army once the fighting stops, so they have time to clear away the mines, but if it is not organized properly then there is the risk that there may be big problems with the residents who are determined to go back immediately."

In one school housing a number of Nahr al-Bared refugees, Mahmoud Khodor, 12, recited the instructions he had been given if he came across a mine.

"If I see one, I shouldn't go near it, and I should go and tell someone in authority," he said, proudly. "They are different from ordinary bombs and they are extremely dangerous."

But he says more should be done to teach the young about UXOs. "I've only heard about these things from my father, and from the posters I've noticed around," he said. "No one has sat us down and talked to us properly, which is what we need."

This sentiment was reiterated by his cousin, 21-year-old Mohammad Khodor. "We need so many more details about the mines and what is going on," said Mohammad. "We are the new generation, and we haven't really experienced any of this before, like our parents have."

The organizations dedicated to spreading awareness are attempting to do so through a variety of means - leaflets, posters, training sessions and television broadcasts. Yet even this dissemination of information reaches only a limited audience.

"The idea of doing broadcasts on television is a great one," said Awat. "But then again, schools and many homes don't have televisions ... And what about those refugees who are not even in the North anymore? Will they have access to all the necessary information?"

Coupled with the de-mining issue is that of the return to the camp once fighting is over. An army source confirmed that de-mining would take a certain period of time due to the excess of mines and booby-traps being discovered every day.

Awat added that while the camp remains under military control, no one will be allowed to return. Yet even the children were worried about a backlash within Beddawi if residents, many of whom already have been displaced for a month, were forced to remain for an extended period of time.

"We all understand how serious the issue of de-mining is, but at the same time we just want to go home," said Mohammad. "There is a concern of problems and confrontations erupting if people start to get more frustrated at the idea of having to wait."

Source : The Daily Star

mercredi 20 juin 2007

Sept roquettes B7 trouvées à Rachaya (Békaa)

Sept roquettes B7 antichars, prêtes à l’utilisation, ont été découvertes hier près du commissariat d’al-Rafid, caza de Rachaya (Békaa), par les forces de l’ordre. Les services de sécurité, les renseignements de l’armée et des experts en explosifs ont été dépêchés sur les lieux pour neutraliser les roquettes et ouvrir une enquête. De tels incidents se sont multipliés au cours des derniers mois dans différentes régions libanaises.

Source : L'Orient Le Jour

mardi 19 juin 2007

Moscou reprend les livraisons d'armes au Proche-Orient

D'après les données de plusieurs sources proches du complexe militaro-industriel, la Russie a abordé la mise en oeuvre d'un contrat de livraison de cinq chasseurs intercepteurs MiG-31E à la Syrie conclu cette année par Rosoboronexport (agence russe d'exportation d'armes). Cela atteste du fait que Moscou reprend les livraisons d'armes au Proche-Orient, après une certaine pause provoquée par la guerre de l'année dernière au Liban. Cette transaction peut s'avérer avantageuse également pour l'Iran qui finance l'acquisition d'armes par Damas conformément au traité irano-syrien sur la défense commune.

Boris Aliochine, directeur de l'Agence fédérale pour l'industrie, a confirmé au quotidien Kommersant l'existence d'un contrat pour des MiG-31E, mais a refusé de citer l'acheteur. Selon les données dont dispose le quotidien, un lot de chasseurs Mig-29M/M2 a également été vendu à la Syrie. Exportés pour la première fois, ces avions ont des caractéristiques techniques semblables à celles du MiG-35 que la Russie propose à l'Inde. Le montant du contrat pour les MiG-31 et un lot de Mig-29M/M2 conclu avec la Syrie est estimé à un milliard de dollars.

La vente d'un lot de chasseurs russes à la Syrie peut évidemment susciter une immense résonance en Occident. D'ailleurs, en ce moment, une éventuelle critique américaine à ce sujet n'inquiétera probablement pas Moscou, car, dans le dialogue Russie-Etats-Unis, le système de défense antimissile reste le problème clé : à présent, tous ces problèmes seront probablement examinés ensemble.

La position occupée par Téhéran sur la défense antimissile confirme indirectement que l'Iran peut tirer un certain avantage de la transaction conclue. Ainsi, après que Vladimir Poutine a proposé à George W. Bush de lutter contre la menace iranienne en utilisant conjointement la station radar de Gabala en Azerbaïdjan, les autorités de Téhéran ont déclaré soudain qu'elles ne considéraient pas l'initiative de la Russie comme hostile et que la proposition de Vladimir Poutine ne se répercuterait nullement sur les rapports russo-iraniens.

La coopération militaire entre la Russie et la Syrie a été gelée au début des années 90 à cause de problèmes survenus dans le remboursement des dettes pour les livraisons soviétiques. Après le rétablissement des contacts en 1996, l'armée syrienne a reçu de la Russie des systèmes de missiles antichars Kornet-E et Metis-M, des lance-grenades RPG-29, des missiles antichars téléguidés Bastion, Cheksna et Reflex, ainsi que des armes d'infanterie. Les contrats signés en 2004 et 2005 portaient sur la fourniture de systèmes de DCA Strelets équipés de missiles Igla-S et d'une cinquantaine de systèmes antiaériens missiles-canons Pantsir-S1 pour 730 millions de dollars. Un contrat sur la modernisation par la Russie de 1.000 chars T-72 a été conclu en 2006. En outre, la Russie prévoit de perfectionner le système de DCA syrien.

Source : Libnanews

mercredi 6 juin 2007

Deux syriens et un irakiens arrêtés en possession d'explosifs

Les forces de sécurité ont arrêté mercredi deux Syriens et un Irakien pour possession d’armes et d’explosifs au Liban, un pays secoué par les violences, selon une source policière.

Les trois hommes ont été arrêtés dans le village de Bar Elias, dans la vallée orientale de la Békaa, à quelque 10 km du point de passage libano-syrien de Masnaa, a-t-on ajouté.

Des armes, des explosifs, des cartes détaillées de villages et de villes libanaises, ainsi que des lunettes de vision nocturnes ont été saisies dans la maison où ont été arrêtées les trois personnes.

Les mesures de sécurité ont été considérablement renforcées au Liban depuis le début le 20 mai des affrontements entre l’armée et les islamistes du Fatah al-Islam, dans le nord du Liban.

Quatre attentats à l’explosif ont parallèlement secoué la capitale et ses environs depuis cette date.

Mercredi matin, des artificiers libanais ont désamorcé une bombe munie d’un système de minuterie dans la ville de Tyr, au Liban sud.

Source : iLoubnan

Découvertes d’armement et arrestations en série au Liban

Alors que les combats se poursuivent dans le camp de Nahr el-Bared où sont retranchés les militants du groupe terroriste du Fatah al-Islam, les forces de l’ordre et l’armée libanaise ont découvert un dépôt d’armement, bloqué une contrebande d’armes, désamorcé une charge explosive, et procédé à l’arrestation des auteurs de ces délits ainsi qu’un journaliste d’al-Arabiya.

Une bombe désamorcée à Tyr

Vers les 8 heures du matin, des experts de l’armée libanaise ont réussi à désamorcer une bombe dans la localité portuaire de Tyr au sud Liban, qui était programmée pour exploser à 11h15 de l’avant-midi. Cette charge était placée dans une boîte de lait en poudre près d'une plage à Tyr, habituellement fréquentée par les casques bleus de la FINUL au sud du pays.

Interception d’une contrebande d’armes

Les troupes de l’armée libanaise ont intercepté durant la nuit un camion chargé d’armes en provenance de la Syrie au niveau d’un check-point militaire dans la localité de Doris dans la vallée de la Beqaa. Le chauffeur du camion qui a essayé de fuir a été arrêté par l’armée libanaise. Selon certaines sources, ces armes étaient destinées au ravitaillement des combattants à Nahr el-Bared.

Selon des sources sécuritaires, ce camion contenant des roquettes, des munitions d’armes à répétitions et des mitrailleuses, appartient aux guérilleros du Hezbollah dans la Beqaa. Six membres du Hezbollah se trouvaient à l’intérieur du camion. L’armée a confisqué les armes, mais a autorisé les hommes du Hezbollah à partir.

Découvertes d’un dépôt d’armes à Akkar

Un dépôt contenant 200 kg d’explosifs a été découvert par les forces de l’ordre dans le domicile d’un homme suspecté d’appartenir à l’organisation terroriste du Fatah al-Islam dans la province d’Akkar au nord du Liban.

Source : Libnanews

vendredi 1 juin 2007

Moscow warns sharp increase in military aid may 'destabilize' Lebanon

BERLIN: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Wednesday that the sharp increase in US military aid to Lebanon could "destabilize" the country. "We have always assumed that it is necessary for international agreements to be adhered to. We also know it is necessary to prevent the shipment of arms which might serve to destabilize the situation," he said after a meeting in Berlin of the international "Quartet" for Middle East peace. "Those who send arms know very well which actions could be destabilizing or not."

The United States sent several plane loads of military aid to Lebanon last week, including ammunition and other equipment, to help the Lebanese Army fight Fatah al-Islam militants in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp.

Lavrov's comments came after an earlier confrontation with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was representing Washington at the Quartet meeting. At a gathering of foreign ministers of the Group of Eight (G8) club of nations in nearby Potsdam, Moscow and Washington had been at odds over Kosovo and US plans to deploy a missile shield in Europe.
Rice told reporters the US was complying with Resolution 1701, which calls for reinforcing the Lebanese Army.

"This is not a matter of interfering in Lebanese affairs," Rice emphasized. "It is to help Lebanon be able to defend its own sovereignty.

"The United States is not the only country that is helping equip the Lebanese Army, which needs to have the modern capability to defend its sovereignty and defend its state. That is the only purpose of this [military aid]."

The US Congress approved a 2007 budget which includes $280 million in military aid to Lebanon, seven times more than the $40 million unblocked in 2006.

Initially, the administration of US President George W. Bush had asked for $5 million in aid, but the sum was dramatically increased after the 2006 summer war with Israel, with Rice requesting a total of $769.5 million for Lebanon.

Source : The Daily Star