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UN Force Commander Briefs Visiting Defence Chief

UN Force Commander In Lebanon Briefs Visiting French Defence Minister

New York, Sep 18 2006 2:00PM

The United Nations Force Commander in Lebanon today briefed the visiting French Defence Minister on the latest situation on the ground, including the recent increases in UN troops and the continued Israeli withdrawal and Lebanese army deployment.

Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was accompanied by French Ambassador to Lebanon Bernard Emie at the meeting, which took place at the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) headquarters in the southern town of Naqoura.

“It is an honour to receive her here… especially since France is one of the largest troop contributors to this Mission. The Minister had a chance to see for herself how this Mission is evolving, how it is being strengthened and what challenges UNIFIL will have to deal with in the future,” said Force Commander Major-General Alain Pῥllegrini.

The Minister also visited an area outside Naqoura where she saw UN de-mining teams in action, UNIFIL said. So far such teams working closely with the Lebanese army have cleared and destroyed almost 17,000 cluster bomblets and more than 600 other items of unexploded ordnance left over from the month-long conflict, a UN spokesman told reporters in New York today.

The spokesman also said that following the arrival in recent days of personnel from France, Italy and Spain, UNIFIL now has about 4,800 personnel on the ground.

Resolution 1701 that ended the fighting mandated strengthening the UN Force up to a maximum of 15,000 troops. In his latest report on the resolution to the Security Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said there is a “general understanding” that Israeli troops will completely withdraw once the UN Force reaches 5,000 troops and the Lebanese army is ready to deploy at the full strength of 15,000 troops.

Further on the humanitarian front, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today said that electrical repairs in the country are proceeding more quickly than originally projected.

Ends

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