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Lebanon: EU Takes Wheel Of UN Coastal Fleet

Lebanon: European mariners take the wheel of UN coastal fleet

29 February 2008 - A European naval group today took command of United Nations peacekeeping's first-ever maritime task force (MTF), which was deployed off the coast of Lebanon in 2006 to curtail arms smuggling following that year's war between Israel and Hizbollah.

"Thanks to the vigilant posture of MTF, the maritime front has been as calm as the sea today," Major-General Claudio Graziano, Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), said at a ceremony passing command from Germany, which led the sea operation since its inception in October 2006, to the European Maritime Force (EUROMARFOR).

EUROMARFOR was formed in 1995 by France, Italy, Portugal and Spain to carry out naval, air and amphibious missions for humanitarian and peacekeeping operations.

At the hand-over ceremony, held aboard the flagship FGS Bayern off Beirut, outgoing MTF commander Rear Admiral Christian Luther of Germany presented a UN flag to Rear Admiral Ruggiero Di Biase of Italy, which now heads the European force.

Maj.-Gen. Graziano congratulated the MTF personnel on their work over the past 14 months. "This has greatly contributed not only to the success of UNIFIL in implementing resolution 1701, but also directly to the security and prosperity of Lebanon as a whole," he said.

Since the start of its operations MTF has hailed more than 13,000 ships and referred 70 suspicious vessels to the Lebanese authorities for further inspection.

Eight countries have contributed naval units to the MTF: Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Turkey.

ENDS

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