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Withdrawal From Lebanon Expected By End September

Israeli Withdrawal From Lebanon Expected To Be Completed By End September: UN

New York, Sep 14 2006 3:00PM

Marking one month since Security Council resolution 1701 ended the 34 days of fighting between Hizbollah and Israel in Lebanon, the United Nations Force Commander in the country said today he expects all Israeli forces to have withdrawn from the south by the end of September.

“The cessation of hostilities is generally maintained, the Israeli Army is continuing to withdraw from South Lebanon, while the Lebanese Army deploys in these areas. I expect the withdrawal to be complete by the end of this month,” said Maj-Gen. Alain Pellegrini, head of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

“Working in conjunction with the Lebanese Armed Forces, and in close coordination with the Israeli Army, I think we can ensure a stable environment here in south Lebanon, something that the people need very much to get on with their lives.”

UNIFIL said that it has observed a “number of minor incidents and violations” in its area of operation between the Litani River and the Blue Line that separates Lebanon and Israel, but added that these have not been of an offensive and hostile character, and the parties seem determined to uphold the cessation of hostilities agreement.

Resolution 1701 called for a strengthening of UNIFIL to up to 15,000 troops and Major-General Pellegrini said a contingent from Spain would arrive on Friday. The Force currently has around 4,000 troops in its theatre of operations.

“UNIFIL is now enhancing its presence, we have been reinforced by Italian and French troops, and I expect the Spanish contingent to arrive tomorrow. We are starting to have the numbers that we need, we have a detailed concept of operation and the required rules of engagement.”

In a related development, the interim naval task force of ships from various nations continues to assist the Lebanese navy in patrolling its maritime boundary, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said in a letter to the Security Council that this will continue until a full UNIFIL naval task force is deployed, as agreed with Lebanon's Government.

A group of UNIFIL military, police, customs and border experts are also reviewing security measures at other entry points in Lebanon, and the Force is also continuing its extensive humanitarian work on the ground, including helping to destroy the masses of unexploded ordnance that litter the countryside.

Ends

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