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U.N. council, officials plea for Lebanon

May 23, 2007 at 10:21 PM

UNITED NATIONS, May 23 (UPI) -- The U.N. Security Council, human rights and humanitarian officials have joined a growing list of petitioners for peace in north Lebanon.

Humanitarian workers want access to the besieged Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli to bring water and food in and to take wounded out. Since Sunday, the Lebanese army has been trying to dislodge Fatah al-Islam gunmen from the camp, home to more than 30,000 people, 8,000 of them classified as special hardship cases.

Officials say more than 60 people have been killed in the fighting and about 10,000 people have fled to the nearby Beddawi refugee camp or to a stadium in Tripoli.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, president of the Security Council this month, read out a statement expressing the deep concern of council members at the violence, calling the gunmen's action "an unacceptable attack on Lebanon's stability, security and sovereignty."

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement, "The protection from attack for humanitarian workers and medical personnel and their unrestricted access to civilians are also guaranteed under the principles of international humanitarian law."

She added, "The shelling of an UNRWA convoy (Tuesday) is unacceptable," referring to a convoy of six vehicles from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East attacked entering the camp to deliver milk, bread and medicines.

There were no UNRWA staff fatalities, but U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes told reporters three vehicles were badly damaged and some supplies were destroyed.

Holmes and UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd acknowledged the Lebanese army's need to deal with the gunmen but want soldiers to act with maximum restraint when operating in areas with civilians.

--

William M. Reilly, UPI U.N. Correspondent

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