UN electoral experts heading to Lebanon Security Council told in briefing on

The United Nations has been holding talks on assisting the Lebanese Government prepare for next month’s parliamentary elections and a team of electoral experts is due to arrive soon in Beirut, a top UN envoy told the Security Council today as he briefed on the situation following the pullout of Syrian troops from its smaller neighbour.“The 26th of April 2005 was undoubtedly a historic day for the Lebanese and the Syrian people, and for the Middle East,” Terje Roed-Larsen said, referring to the day the Government of Syria notified Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Council that it had repatriated its troops, military assets and intelligence apparatus after 30 years in Lebanon. “These are unquestionably momentous events.”His remarks came as he presented the first semi-annual report to the Council on the implementation of resolution 1559, which called for withdrawing all foreign forces from Lebanon, disbanding all militias, extending Government control over the whole country and holding free elections.Mr. Roed-Larsen, Mr. Annan’s Special Envoy for implementing resolution 1559, said the UN was awaiting the report of its withdrawal verification mission, which was sent with the agreement of the two governments and which arrived Tuesday in Lebanon.In addition to resolution 1559’s provision for withdrawal, Mr. Roed-Larsen said, the Secretary-General also has given a high priority to the text’s call for the full restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence.As a visible sign of the sovereignty and political independence of a democracy, Lebanon now was going to hold “free and credible parliamentary elections” on 29 May and, to that end, the UN has been discussing providing Lebanon technical assistance, he noted.“UN electoral experts will arrive in Beirut early next week, with the full understanding of the Government of Lebanon,” Mr. Roed-Larsen said. “These advisers will seek to assist the Government in its preparations for such free and credible elections.”The United Nations was also having a constructive dialogue with the Government on Mr. Annan’s suggestion that invitations be extended to international observers to monitor the balloting.Discussions on disbanding and disarming Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias have started and the UN expects that the dialogue will intensify over the coming months, the envoy said. “We also expect the Government of Lebanon to extend its control over Lebanese territory vacated by Syrian forces,” he added.“It is our strong belief that full implementation of all requirements of the resolution would help enable the people of Lebanon and of the entire region to begin setting aside the enchaining and constraining vestiges of a captive past,” he said.