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Ban expresses concern over situation in southern Lebanon


Beirut : Visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed concerns over the firing of Katyusha rockets from Lebanon into Israel.

“I am concerned for the situation in the south, any additional aggression threatens the stability of UNSCR 1701. I call on everyone in Lebanon and Israel to control themselves to maintain stability,” Ban, who arrived in Beirut late Friday, told the Lebanese parliament.

Last week, the tension in southern Lebanon heightened after unidentified militants fired several rockets into the northern Israeli settlement prompting Israel to fire back at areas where the rockets were launched from.

The incident raised fears that UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended 33 days of war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, is being violated and it threatened the prevailing calm and stability in southern Lebanon and on the other side of the border.

“Lebanon is a ray of hope for a peaceful Middle East,” Ban told the 128-member parliament.

Referring to the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza, the UN chief said: “Hamas must stop firing rockets and Israel must stop its offensive.”

“The level of violence in Gaza has reached unprecedented levels. My mission is to double diplomatic efforts to achieve an implementation of (UN) resolution,” he said.

On his part, House Speaker Nabih Berri welcomed the UN chief inside the Lebanese parliament and said Israel continues to violate Lebanese territories and breaches UNSCR 1701, which Lebanon is committed to.

The UN chief started his official talks Saturday in Beirut by meeting with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Premier Fouad Seniora.

He also met a group of Lebanese children who presented him a memorandum protesting the killing of children in Gaza.

“Your message touched my heart and impressed me. I reiterate my stance to work for peace; my message is that of peace for Lebanon and for everyone,” he told the group of Lebanese children.

While the UN chief was delivering his speech in the Lebanese Parliament, dozens of Lebanese, Palestinian and Hezbollah followers gathered in front of the UN house, which is few meters away from the parliament, protesting the UN silence on the “massacres committed in Gaza against the civilians”.

“Why the silence as little children are being killed daily,” read one placard.

Ban headed to southern Lebanon shortly after he finished his speech at the parliament to inspect the UN Interim Forces in Southern Lebanon (UNIFIL).