July 23, 2009 / 9:41 PM / 10 years ago

Hezbollah arms cache violated U.N. embargo: U.S.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States joined Israel on Thursday in accusing Hezbollah guerrillas of violating a U.N. weapons embargo in southern Lebanon and undermining the efforts of U.N. peacekeepers there.

U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told the Security Council behind closed doors that the United Nations suspected an explosion in southern Lebanon last week was the detonation of an operational weapons cache that belonged to Hezbollah.

After Le Roy’s briefing, Wolff told reporters the clandestine stockpiling of arms south of the Litani River was a “clear violation of resolution 1701 and all the indications are that these were arms actively maintained by Hezbollah.”

Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day war in 2006 between Israel and the Hezbollah guerrilla movement, which is backed by Iran and Syria, banned all unauthorized weapons between the Litani River and the Blue Line, the U.N.-monitored border between Israel and Lebanon.

A spokeswoman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, said last week that peacekeepers had been pelted with stones by a crowd of about 100 Lebanese in the village of Khirbet Selim while trying to investigate the site of the explosion at the suspected arms dump.

Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Gabriela Shalev, said in a letter to the Security Council that the blast had been caused by the detonation of an arms cache belonging to Hezbollah.

She said the actions of Hezbollah represented “a clear violation of 1701 which gravely endanger the stability in the region ... (and) the local Lebanese population.”

After leaving the Security Council meeting, Le Roy confirmed to reporters he suspected the site was a weapons cache, albeit an older one with mostly older weapons.

“There is an investigation going on,” he said.

It was not immediately clear whether the 15-nation council would take any further action after the incident.

“That violation shows how perilous the situation remains and how important that UNIFIL be supported in its efforts to ensure that there are no arms entering southern Lebanon,” Wolff said.

Other council diplomats said they agreed the presence of unauthorized weapons in southern Lebanon was a violation of 1701 but that the council should wait until the U.N. investigation was completed before acting.

Editing by Peter Cooney

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