Sunday, July 26, 2009

Putting words in UNIFIL’s mouth ...


"... Weapons stocked prior to Resolution 1701 or not?

Following an Israeli complaint about the weapons depot, Alain Le Roy, UN Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations, conducted an oral briefing off the public record about the weapons depot. The conclusion of his testimony was reported differently by the Israeli, Arabic and US press—highlighting the rhetorical tightrope that the UN frequently walks when it comes to sensitive missions. The Arabic press, leading with Al Akhbar, noted that Le Roy had said the weapons cache was old and the investigation “ongoing.” The New York Times also said that Le Roy had confirmed to reporters that the weapons cache was an “older one,” while the Jerusalem Post claimed that Le Roy said “there was an ‘actively maintained’ weapons cache in southern Lebanon.”
[Resolution 1701, passed in August 2006, prohibits Hezbollah from maintaining arms below the Litani river line where the stockpiled munitions were found.]

He said, she said

The NY Times, in a characteristic display of semantic acrobatics, reported, “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 Wolff said Washington believes belonged to Hezbollah.” In plain English: the US said that the UN said that a weapons depot had caused the explosion, which the US said belongs to Hezbollah. Note that the allegation that the weapons cache belonged to Hezbollah was not attributed to Mr. Le Roy in the New York Times piece.
But in an article entitled “UN official: Arms cache that exploded in Lebanon was Hezbollah's”, Israeli Ynet News claimed that “During a UN Security Council session that discussed Israel's complaints on the recent developments in Lebanon, LeRoy said that the arms cache that exploded in the area last week was used by Hezbollah.”
Not only did Le Roy attribute the weapons cache to Hezbollah, according to this report, but he also said Hezbollah was involved with the attack on UNIFIL soldiers:
“He claimed that the attack on French UNIFIL soldiers sent to investigate the explosion was not carried out by civilians, adding that Hezbollah men were spotted in the area,” YNet wrote.
A UNIFIL representative in Lebanon contacted by MENASSAT concluded that it was “impossible” Le Roy made these claims, and that the statement – if true—would amount to “suicide” for UNIFIL. Ari Gaitanis, a spokesperson for Le Roy, however told MENASSAT that, “in relation to the attack, Mr. Le Roy noted that some individuals present at the site were identified to UNIFIL as belonging to Hizbullah.” Mr. Gaitanis, who previously served as deputy spokesperson for UNIFIL, did however express bewilderment as to how Hezbollah could be distinguished from civilians, since “they don’t wear uniforms.”...

Further Israeli reporting on the incident was devoted to blaming UNIFIL, who, according to an article in Haaretz, knew of the cache for months in advance and never did anything about it.

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