(CNSNews.com) – Lebanon is expected Thursday to be chosen to serve on the U.N. Security Council for the 2010-2011 period, despite signs in the country of ongoing violations of Security Council resolutions calling for Hezbollah to be disarmed.
In a formal complaint to the U.N. this week, Israel charged that an explosion in southern Lebanon – the second of its kind in three months – provided further proof that the Iranian-sponsored Shi’ite group was continuing to stockpile weapons just north of the border with Israel.
The U.N.’s Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is stationed in the area, says it is investigating.
The explosion on Monday night occurred at the house of a Hezbollah figure named as Abdel Nasser Issa, in the village of Tayr Filsi, about six miles north of the border.
Early reports said up to five people had been killed, although Hezbollah in a statement on its Web site said “one citizen” had been injured.
“Unlike what some media outlets reported about lives claimed, no martyrs fell in the explosion at all,” said the group, which the State Department has designated as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) released footage filmed from a drone shortly after the blast. It shows a group of men carrying objects from the house where the explosion occurred to trucks. One of the objects is particularly large, requiring four or five men to carry it. The trucks are then driven to what the IDF called “a known weapons storage facility in the center of Dir a-Nahar village” about 2.5 miles away.
The footage shows other vehicles pulling up outside the explosion site.
“Only after Hezbollah removed the weaponry did they allow UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army to enter the site of the explosion,” the army said in a n explanatory statement. “The IDF has submitted the footage to UNIFIL to aid in their investigation of the incident.”
The existence of weapons in the south of the country – between the Litani river and the border – would violate a Security Council resolution that brought an end to a month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in mid-2006.
Resolution 1701 requires “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that … there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state.”
Two years earlier another resolution, 1559, called for “the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.”
Both Monday’s explosion and another one last July took place south of the Litani. In the July incident, when UNIFIL members tried to investigate they were attacked by more than 100 people who hurled stones at them, preventing them from reaching the scene. Fourteen peacekeepers were injured and several vehicles damaged.
Israel and the U.S. said at the time that the explosion occurred at what they believed was an arms cache belonging to Hezbollah. But Hezbollah said they were Israeli weaponry left behind after the 2006 war and collected by the group. The Lebanese government backed Hezbollah’s version.
During the 2006 war, Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into Israel, landing as far as around 50 miles south of the border. Israeli defense officials have charged that with Iranian help, Hezbollah now had rockets capable of hitting the main population centers along Israel’s Mediterranean coast.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said Tuesday Hezbollah was turning Lebanon into a “powder keg” and standing in the way of peace between Israel and its neighbor that could see Lebanon “become the Switzerland of the Middle East.”
“It’s not Israel that is endangering Lebanon, but rather Hezbollah, just as Hamas is endangering the Palestinians,” he told reporters during a trip to northern Israel.
At a Security Council meeting on the Middle East Wednesday, U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said that the continuing presence of Hezbollah and other armed groups in Lebanon posed a “danger to international peace and security.”
Monday’s explosion “signals yet another weapons related violation of Security Council resolution 1701,” Wolff said, adding that the U.S. was looking forward to the results of a U.N. probe into the blast.
Despite resolutions 1701 and 1559 the U.S.-backed government in Beirut has been unable or unwilling to act to disarm Hezbollah, which styles itself as the Lebanese “resistance” to Israeli aggression.
In its complaint to the U.N. this week, Israel accused the Lebanese Army of turning a blind eye to Hezbollah’s rearming.
Four months after parliamentary elections handed victory to his pro-Western “March 14” alliance, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is still trying to form a national unity cabinet. In the last such cabinet Hezbollah held an effective veto.
Despite the political uncertainty and security concerns, Lebanon this year sought one of the 10 non-permanent seats on the Security Council.
In a document supporting its bid, the government describes the country as a “defender of international norms,” and says that “Lebanon never ceases to call for the respect of resolutions and decisions of the various United Nations organs.”
Lebanon’s candidacy is all but assured, having been endorsed by the Asia group for the one vacant seat earmarked for Asia.
In total, five of the council’s 10 non-permanent seats will be filled by General Assembly vote on Thursday.
The other four seats are also being filled uncontested, with Africa endorsing Gabon and Nigeria for the two vacant African seats, Bosnia and Herzegovina the only declared candidate for the Eastern European group, and Brazil getting the nod from the Latin American and Caribbean group.
The five newcomers will replace Vietnam, Burkina Faso, Libya, Croatia and Costa Rica. The remaining five non-permanent seats will be held for a further year by their current occupants, Japan, Turkey, Austria, Mexico and Uganda.