Implementation of Annan's UNIFIL Reduction Plan Delayed
Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General has agreed to a request from UNIFIL to delay the further reduction of the peacekeeping force until June. This move, which was outlined in Annan’s latest report on UNIFIL, provides the peacekeepers an extra six-month period before embarking on the next stage of the force’s cut.
However, Annan’s intention to cut UNIFIL to a final figure of not more than 2,000 soldiers remains intact, despite the Lebanese government’s bid to keep the force at its current strength of 3,700 troops.
According to Lebanon’s Daily Star, in his biannual report on UNIFIL, Annan wrote southern Lebanon “remained generally stable” with Hizbullah and the Israelis exercising “greater restraint,” accompanied by a decrease in the number of ground violations of the UN-delineated Blue Line. “Israeli air violations of the Blue Line, however, continued on an almost daily basis, penetrating deep into Lebanese airspace,” Annan said. “These incursions are not justified and cause great concern to the civilian population, particularly low-altitude flights that break the sound barrier over populated areas.”
Annan reported only two “serious” breaches of the cease-fire, both Hizbullah mortar attacks in October and Israel’s retaliatory shelling and air raids. He noted Hizbullah’s presence at the village of Ghajar, which is split by the Blue Line and considered a potential flashpoint. “Confrontation in this area has thus far been avoided owing to the restraint shown by both sides,” he said. Annan said Hizbullah repeatedly “interfered” with UNIFIL’s freedom of movement, requiring the intervention of the Lebanese authorities. (Albawaba.com)