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16/01/2012 Share/Save/Bookmark
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Conference on Democracy in the Arab world (AP)
Conference on Democracy in the Arab world (AP)

Ban: Era of one-man rule in Middle East is over

(DP-News – Daily Star)

BEIRUT- In an interview with The Daily Star, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks about his major political messages, as he wrapped up a three-day visit to Lebanon Sunday.

Ban spoke on three contentious issues that have sharply split the Lebanese: The U.N.-backed court, Hezbollah’s arms and the 10-month unrest in Syria.

Ban ruled out any amendment of the protocol concerning the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) and rejected Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s defiant stance on the group’s arsenal, saying that non-state weapons are dangerous and harmful for Lebanon’s peace and stability.

The U.N. chief later urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop killing his people, saying the “old order” of one-man rule is over in the Middle East.

“Today, I say again to President Assad of Syria: Stop the violence. “Stop killing your people. The path of repression is a dead end,” Ban said in a keynote address Sunday at a conference in Beirut on democratic transitions in the Arab world.

“The lessons of the past year are eloquent and clear: The winds of change will not cease to blow. The flame ignited in Tunisia will not be dimmed,” he added, referring to the public protests that began in Tunisia in January last year which have set off the Arab Spring popular uprisings currently roiling the Arab world.

Syria’s violent crackdown on protesters demanding Assad’s ouster has killed more than 5,000 people, by a U.N. count, since the uprising began in last March. The Syrian authorities say 2,000 members of the security forces have also been killed.

The killing of protesters has continued despite the presence of Arab League observers in Syria to verify its compliance with a League peace plan to end the bloodshed.

Referring to autocratic one-man rules in Arab countries, some of which have already collapsed like those in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, Ban said: “The old way, the old order, is crumbling – one-man rule and the perpetuation of family dynasties ... monopolies of wealth and power ... the silencing of the media ... the deprivation of fundamental freedoms that are the birthright of every man, woman and child on this planet. To all of this, the people say: enough!” Ban said.

In his speech, Ban did not touch on the controversial issue of the STL which has sharply divided the Lebanese. But in an interview with The Daily Star Saturday, Ban said there was no need to amend the protocol concerning tribunal which, he said, has succeeded so far in preventing political assassinations.

“I don’t think there is a need to change any agreement,” Ban said, adding that in accordance with the agreement between the Lebanese state and the U.N., the mandate of the STL, which expires on Feb. 29, would be automatically extended.

“It is a matter of extending the mandate so that all the works can be carried out to bring justice to the perpetrators of this crime,” Ban said. “That is something to be decided by me in consultation with the U.N. Security Council and Lebanese authorities.”

The STL, established in 2007 to try those involved in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has indicted four members of Hezbollah, which has called for the cooperation agreement between Lebanon and the United Nations on the court to be canceled. Hezbollah has dismissed the STL as “an American-Israeli court.”

Ban said that one of the key aims of the STL – to prevent further political assassinations – has worked thus far.

Ban’s statement came hours after Nasrallah criticized Ban for saying he was “deeply concerned about the military capabilities of Hezbollah and also concerned about the lack of progress in disarmament.”

Nasrallah said that he was pleased that Ban, as well the United States and Israel, were concerned over Hezbollah’s growing military prowess. “Your concern Mr. Secretary-General reassures us and makes us happy,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech Saturday. He vowed to maintain Hezbollah’s arsenal, rejecting any national dialogue whose aim is to disarm the party.

Responding to Nasrallah’s comments, Ban reiterated an earlier call that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which demands the disbanding of all non-state actors, to be fully implemented.

Ban, who has encouraged President Michel Sleiman to continue attempts to reconvene the National Dialogue process and address the questions of weapons outside the control of the state, said there should be continuous efforts to disarm Hezbollah. “These weapons outside state authority [are] dangerous and harmful for peace and stability for Lebanon and also in the region,” Ban told The Daily Star.

In turn, Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri praised Ban’s visit, saying it backed Lebanon’s independence.

“The main message carried by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Lebanon pertains to the international court and the need to implement U.N resolutions, in addition to supporting Lebanon’s independence,” Hariri said on the popular social networking website Twitter.

Asked to comment on Nasrallah’s speech in which he vowed to keep Hezbollah’s arms, Hariri said: “The same remarks in every [speech].”

In his speech, Ban also called for an end to Israeli occupation of Arab territories and settlement construction. “The Israeli occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories must end. So must violence against civilians. Settlements, new and old, are illegal. They work against the emergence of a viable Palestinian state,” Ban said, adding: “A two-state solution is long overdue. The status quo offers only the guaranty of future conflict. We must all do our part to break the impasse and secure a lasting peace.”

Addressing the conference on democratic transitions in the Arab world, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Lebanon has the right to liberate its land from Israeli occupation by all available means. He also said that Lebanon is undergoing state and administrative reforms in order to strengthen democracy.

“Lebanon, which complies with international resolutions, insists on implementing Resolution 1701 fully and without any distinction or selectivity, reserving its legitimate right to liberate its occupied land by all available means,” Mikati said.

He slammed Israel’s repeated violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and human rights, urging the U.N. to ensure the implementation of resolutions related to Lebanon, namely Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon.

“Israel does not hesitate to breach or ignore international resolutions and norms, while violating solemnly the most basic human rights and principles,” Mikati said. “In this context, we look forward to the United Nations issuing just international resolutions and ensuring their just implementation.”

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