By Reuters,

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations has urged Lebanon to set its borders with Syria and disband the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hezbollah militia so it can be master of its own nation – a call Hezbollah immediately rejected yesterday.

In turn, Syria should take up Beirut’s offer of establishing diplomatic relations as well as demarcating the entire 250-kilometer boundary between the two countries, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report released late on Tuesday. "A united Lebanon has offered an outstretched hand to Syria," Annan said. "I call on Syria to accept this offer and undertake measures, in particular, to establish embassies and delineate the border between Syria and Lebanon."

The 23-page report, prepared by UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, is a response to Security Council resolution 1559 of September 2004 that called for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and for Lebanon to disarm militias so the Beirut government could control the entire country.

Syria and Lebanon have not had embassies on each other’s territory since Western powers carved the two states out of the remnants of the Ottoman empire in 1920. Damascus says its many bilateral ties rather than embassies suffice for the present.

Damascus, which entered Lebanon in 1976 to quell a civil war, pulled its troops out a year ago after the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others that many blamed on Syria but which Damascus denies. The murders resulted in mass anti-Syrian demonstrations.

Resistance and borders

Hezbollah, whose attacks helped end Israel’s 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, has made no move to disband and join the Lebanese army.

In response to the report, a Hezbollah parliamentarian told Lebanon television that the group would not disband. Ali Ammar accused Roed-Larsen of trying "to meet the demands of the Israeli agenda through the Lebanese gate."

Annan’s report, in a footnote, said also for the first time that Hezbollah had "close ties with frequent contacts and regular communication" with Syria and Iran and asked both countries to cooperate with the "farsighted" Beirut government.

Hezbollah’s existence is linked directly to the border controversy, with the militia maintaining it provides resistance against a strip of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, known as the Shaba Farms.

The United Nations, using dozens of maps, say Shaba is part of Syria, but that the two nations are free to change the border, which they have not.

"Its current status as Israeli-occupied Syrian territory does, however, remain valid unless and until the governments of Lebanon and Syria take steps under international law to alter that status," Annan said.

Syria has proposed delineating the joint border in five stages, but has said that boundaries in occupied areas could not be set until a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement.

In February, 12 trucks of ammunition and Katyusha rockets crossed the border from Syria, with the Lebanese army saying they were necessary for Hezbollah.

But Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, currently visiting Washington before seeing Annan, told Roed-Larsen he would control further arms transfers and none "have occurred since," the report said.

Since Roed-Larsen’s last report six months ago, Lebanese political leaders have initiated a national dialogue to resolve long-simmering disputes that the report called "a truly historic and unprecedented event."