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williams 2Municipal elections planned for Lebanon later this year must be free and fair, a senior United Nations official said today as he urged the country’s political leaders to continue to pursue dialogue to ensure that tensions are eased ahead of the polls.

Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, spoke to reporters in Beirut after meeting Prime Minister Saad Hariri to brief him on recent developments, particularly the Security Council briefing on Lebanon earlier this month.

He noted that the Lebanese Parliament is discussing draft reforms for the municipal elections – including races for local council members and town and village leaders – that are scheduled to take place later this year.

“Whatever the Lebanese decide in this regard, we hope that the elections will take place in a free, fair and democratic atmosphere,” Mr. Williams said. “I welcome particularly the recent meeting of the National Dialogue [a political reconciliation process] and the reaffirmation of the commitment of Lebanese leaders to stability and calm rhetoric as municipal elections draw near.”

Responding to questions from journalists, the Special Coordinator also called on all sides to do more to fully implement the Security Council resolution from 2006 that ended that year’s conflict between Israel and Hizbollah.

The resolution calls for respect for the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, the disarming of all militias operating in Lebanon and an end to arms smuggling in the area.UN

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