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Force in Lebanon Extended as Council Mulls Action

UN Force in Lebanon Extended for 1 Month as Council Mulls Future Action

New York, Jul 31 2006 6:00PM

The Security Council today extended for one month the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) while proposals for a new international presence in the violence-wracked region are considered.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the Council rolled over the mandate of the Force, first set up in 1978, “pending consideration of other options for future arrangements in South Lebanon.”

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in his most recent report that the upsurge in violence since 12 July had “radically changed the context” in which UNIFIL operates and recommended that its mandate be renewed only for another month while all possible options for southern Lebanon are worked out.

Agreeing with that view and extending the mission only until 31 August, the Council urged all parties to abide scrupulously by their obligation to respect the safety of all UN personnel.

Mr. Annan has repeatedly and strongly called for an immediate cessation of hostilities while proposing the deployment of a stabilisation force for the area. Speaking to reporters on the initiative on Friday, he said: “We’ve gone beyond statements and exhortations. We’re looking for concrete, practical steps to take action.”

The Lebanese “need to find a way of disarming Hizbollah and creating a situation where there will be one authority and one gun, and extend the authority through the territory. And this is where the international community needs to work with them and give them the support, the space, by deploying the stabilization force,” he said.

A planned technical-level meeting for potential troop contributors to a possible stabilization force in Lebanon, scheduled for today, was postponed. Asked the reasons for the delay, UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said, “They needed time to get the details right for a force of that nature. It’s just a question of time and logistics.”

Meanwhile on the ground, UNFIL reported that two tank rounds from the Israeli side impacted directly on the Force’s position in the general area of Hula yesterday afternoon, causing extensive material damage, including the ammunition shelter, but no casualties. One aerial bomb impacted in the vicinity of a UN position in the area of Alma Ash Shab yesterday morning, causing damage to the parameter wall.

“It was reported that Hizbollah fired rockets from the vicinity of this UNIFIL position prior to the aerial bombardment. Hizbollah also fired small arms fire from the vicinity of the same position,” the Force said in a news release. “They also fired rockets from the vicinity of two UNIFIL positions in the area of Tibnin and At Tiri in the central sector.” There was one more incident of firing from the Israeli side close to UNIFIL position in the area of Mays al Jabal, when 10 tank rounds impacted 100 meters from the UN position.

UNIFIL strongly protested all these incidents to the Israeli and Lebanese authorities, according to the news release.

There were no incidents of aerial bombardment by Israeli forces or rocket fire from Hizbollah in its area of operations since 4 a.m. this morning, except for two air strikes in the area of At Tayyabah in the eastern sector and heavy shelling near two other villages from the Israeli side, UNMIL said.

The mission said that it seems that Israeli forces maintain their presence in two locations inside Lebanese territory, but those areas have also been “relatively quiet” and there are no reports of serious combat.

Four observers from the associated UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) were killed last week when an Israeli bombardment hit their base, and other observers have been moved within more secure UNIFIL positions.

ENDS

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