September 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 August 2007
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Expected Council Action
Council members are likely to follow closely the Lebanese presidential elections, due to take place on 25 September. But in terms of scheduled Council activity the only focus in September will be the special tribunal to try those suspected in the Hariri murder and other linked assassinations. A progress report from the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 1757 (establishing the tribunal under Chapter VII of the UN Charter) is expected by 5 September.

Because resolution 1773 changed the reporting cycle for reports on implementation of resolution 1701 from every three months to every four months, the next report is now expected in October.

Key Recent Developments
On 3 August the Council adopted a presidential statement welcoming the latest report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 1701. The statement addressed several issues connected to implementation of resolution 1701, and in particular it:

  • expressed concern at the increase of Israeli air violations of the Blue Line;
  • expressed concern at reports of illegal transfer of weapons across the Syrian-Lebanese border in breach of the arms embargo;
  • welcomed the recommendations of the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team (LIBAT) and stated it looked forward to their implementation, to be reported in the next 1701 reports;
  • called for the immediate and unconditional release of the Israeli soldiers detained by Hezbollah and on settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel;
  • expressed deep concern at the presence of unexploded ordnance in south Lebanon and requested Israel to provide data on its use of cluster munitions in southern Lebanon; 
  • took note of progress made by the UN cartographer on a provisional geographical definition of the Sheb’a Farms and the diplomatic process underway; and
  • stated it looked forward to the re-activation of the Syrian-Lebanese boundary committee.

On 24 August, following a request by the Lebanese government and the recommendation by the Secretary-General, the Council extended the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for one year. There were no changes to the mandate. However, contrary to expectations, resolution 1773 contained significant political content. In particular, it

  • again called for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers-a cause of the conflict-and encouraged efforts to settle the issue of Lebanese prisoners in Israel;
  • called on all parties to support efforts to clear unexploded ordnance from southern Lebanon;
  • encouraged the Lebanese government to continue to extend its authority over its territory; and
  • reiterated its intention to consider further steps toward a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution and called on all parties to cooperate in that regard.

On 3 August, UN Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel invited all UN member states to submit by 24 September names of candidates for international judges. A selection panel comprising two judges sitting in or retired from an international tribunal will then be set up by the Secretary-General to make recommendations for the appointments.

On 17 August, it was announced that the Netherlands had in principle agreed to host the tribunal. A condition seems to be that other countries volunteer to incarcerate anyone convicted. At press time, details were still under discussion between the UN and the Netherlands.

In Lebanon, the political deadlock between the government and the opposition continues. On 5 August, in a special election to replace assassinated lawmakers Pierre Gemayel and Walid Eido, the opposition captured one of two open seats in Lebanon’s parliament from the governing party.

The Council may consider the following options:

  • a press statement welcoming the progress on the tribunal; and
  • a presidential statement welcoming more formally the progress report on the tribunal and calling on member states to support the tribunal financially.

Key Issues
Discussions on the tribunal are likely to be straightforward and technical. The only issue may be the timing of any statement.

A more substantial issue that may arise is financing. At press time it remained to be determined whether the tribunal would be able to use facilities in the Netherlands which are already in place or whether a new structure was needed. The latter would increase the cost. This is an important matter as the tribunal cannot be established unless there are sufficient financial contributions available to run it for a year and enough pledges to meet its expenses for another two years. The report may provide a rough estimate. It may be that the Council will consider encouraging UN members to participate (51 percent of the expenses are to be borne by voluntary contributions from member states).

The report may also focus on organisational matters, i.e. the tribunal’s organs, the composition of the chambers, whether there should be a pre-trial judge, the defence, appointments of the judges and the prosecutor and the duration of their appointment. But these are unlikely to become issues in the Council.

An important issue which may also arise is the safety of witnesses and other people who cooperate with the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC).

The upcoming Lebanese presidential elections will be a very important issue in their own right which will be very closely watched by many Council members. In 2004, in resolution 1559, the Council had declared its support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon, according to Lebanese constitutional rules and without foreign interference. At that time Lebanese President Emile Lahoud’s term in office was due to expire in November 2004. According to the Lebanese constitution, the parliament should have elected a successor at least a month before the expiration of the president’s term, and the constitution allowed for a single six-year term. Contrary to resolution 1559, however, the parliament approved a law extending President Lahoud’s term by three years, “for one and exceptional time” (until 23 November 2007). Although the Lebanese government at that time said that it was in accordance with Lebanese constitutional rules, it was widely alleged that this outcome was the result of Syrian intervention. In the aftermath of this, the Hariri assassination, the “cedar revolution” and subsequent events in Lebanon unfolded. Since then the Council has often reiterated in presidential statements on implementation of resolution 1559 its commitment to free and fair presidential elections in Lebanon and that these needed to take place for resolution 1559 to be fully implemented.

Council Dynamics
Scepticism about the UN role in establishing the tribunal remains, especially for members who abstained on resolution 1757 (China, Indonesia, Qatar, Russia and South Africa). Others, in addition to the ones who had abstained, seem to prefer that the composition of the tribunal be strictly Lebanese and have doubts about the tribunal’s ability to produce positive impacts in terms of the overall situation in Lebanon. But there now seems to be little disagreement on the various stages to establish the tribunal.

Increasingly, the non-European elected members seem concerned that the Council’s approach to Lebanon is too unfocused with too many different initiatives. For example, some believe that the recent presidential statements adopted in response to the Secretary-General’s reports on 1701 and the latest UNIFIL resolution are too long and that, as a consequence, the Council’s message is diluted. In light of these concerns and the views of many members earlier in August that there was merit in delinking the UNIFIL renewal from substantive political issues, it is curious that in the end resolution 1773 ended up including so much political material. It seems this may have been the result of an initial US desire to include various political issues which it considers a priority, and the response of other members also wanting their own concerns reflected in the draft.

The negotiations on the 3 August presidential statement were to some extent repeated on resolution 1773. They shed light on divisions among Council members. For the US the top priority issues are the abducted Israeli prisoners and Hezbollah disarmament and rearmament. France believes that the priority should be to focus on steps that have potential to impact the situation positively, such as settlement of the Sheb’a Farms issue. It prefers that disarmament be dealt with in the context of the Lebanese national dialogue. Other delegations (South Africa and Indonesia in particular) see the Israeli over-flights as a major problem along with humanitarian issues remaining from the 2006 war, including Israel’s failure to provide details on landmines and cluster bombs locations.

Underlying Problems
According to the Lebanese constitution, the parliament must convene by 23 October to elect the new president. Nabih Berri, the parliament president, had stated that he would convene a session on 25 September but he also has recently said that he would only do so if at least two thirds of deputies were present. Therefore, it is still uncertain whether those elections will take place in September. The election seems likely to become a focus of intense political activity for both the government majority and the opposition. The risk therefore exists for further destabilisation in Lebanon.

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UN Documents

 Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1773 (24 August 2007) extended UNIFIL until 31 August 2008.
  • S/RES/1757 (30 May 2007) established the tribunal under Chapter VII.
  • S/RES/1701  (11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, authorised a reinforcement of UNIFIL and extended the mandate until 31 August 2007.
  • S/RES/1559  (2 September 2004) urged foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and militias to be disarmed.
 Latest Presidential Statement
  • S/PRST/2007/29 (3 August 2007) welcomed the latest 1701 report and the recommendations of the LIBAT report.
 Latest Secretary-General’s Reports
  • S/2007/424  (12 July 2007) was the latest UNIIIC report.
  • S/2007/392  (28 June 2007) was the latest report on resolution 1701.
  • S/2007/382  (26 June 2007) was the LIBAT report.
  • S/2007/262  (7 May 2007) was the latest report on resolution 1559.
 Selected Letters
  • S/2007/477and S/2007/478 (8 August 2007) were letters from Lebanon on Israeli violations in July.
  • S/2007/470 (2 August 2007) was the Secretary-General’s letter recommending a one year extension of UNIFIL with no change in the mandate.
  • S/2007/396 (29 June 2007) was a letter from the Secretary-General enclosing a Lebanese request for a one-year extension of UNIFIL without amendment.


Other Relevant Facts

 Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon
 Geir O. Pedersen (Norway)
 UNIFIL Force Commander
 Major General Claudio Graziano (Italy)
 Size and Composition of UNIFIL
  • Authorised: 15,000 troops
  • Current (as of 24 July 2007) 13,633 military personnel, including 11,428 ground troops and 2,000 personnel in the Maritime Task Force, in addition to 189 staff officers at the Naqoura headquarters and twenty national support elements, assisted by 51 UNTSO military observers, and 748 UNIFIL civilian staff.
  • Troop-contributing countries: Belgium, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania and Turkey.
 Cost (approved budget)
 1 July 2007 – 30 June 2008: US $748.20 million


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