UNITED NATIONS - Calls from the Lebanese government for the U.N. Security Council to investigate alleged Israeli assassinations of Lebanon-based terrorists might complicate diplomatic efforts to assist the country in its quest for full independence from its neighbors, Turtle Bay diplomats said yesterday.
No Lebanese complaint reached the United Nations until yesterday, but according to reports from Beirut, the Lebanese government has resolved to transfer its findings, which reportedly implicate Israel's Mossad in recent assassinations.
The American ambassador in Beirut, Jeffrey Feltman, played down the Lebanese findings, saying they were based on intelligence supplied by Hezbollah. Lebanon's defense minister, Ilyas al-Murr, however, insisted that Hezbollah "knew nothing of the case," and said the Lebanese government is responsible for the information.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Siniora was quoted as saying he would file a complaint against Israel with the Security Council after Mr. Murr told reporters Thursday that his office exposed an Israeli spy ring responsible for the killings of top operatives of Palestinian Arab groups based in Lebanon.
Mr. Murr was quoted by the government-controlled Lebanese National News Agency as saying a sophisticated operation, complete with high-tech explosives and aided by remote-controlled drones, was responsible for the May 26 assassination of Mahmoud and Nidal Majzoub in the city of Sidon, near the Israeli border. The brothers were top leaders of Islamic Jihad.
"This is the first time that an operation of this type, in terms of advanced means, size, and quality, has been unearthed," Mr. Murr said. "In view of the existence of advanced technology, we can say that no one can protect himself against terrorism and explosions of this type."
Lebanese officials said evidence linking the ring to Israel will be presented to Turtle Bay. Several Lebanese politicians demanded that the U.N. probe led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz be widened to include the alleged Israeli assassinations in Lebanon. Mr. Brammertz's team is charged with investigating the February 2005 killing of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. In his latest report to the Security Council, Mr. Brammertz pointed to possible links between that assassination and a subsequent chain of killings of anti-Syrian politicians and journalists.
Mr. Murr said attempting to link those assassinations to the alleged Israeli-backed killings "will be confusing the issue."
A Turtle Bay diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because the council has not yet taken up the issue said yesterday that the American- and French-led diplomacy that in the last few years has concentrated on easing Syria's grip on Lebanon might be complicated significantly if Lebanon attempts to inject Israeli aspects into it. "It will be a big gift to the Syrians," another diplomat, who also requested anonymity, said. Mr. Feltman is pressuring the Lebanese government to drop any Israeli connection, the diplomat said.
Meanwhile, Israeli military officials told reporters yesterday that Hezbollah is fortifying positions along the border and that Iran recently increased its financial and military support for the organization. The Israeli Web site Ynet reported that Mr. Feltman said Hezbollah's creation of a "state within a state" in Lebanon would have a negative effect on Beirut's request for American military assistance.