UN Chief Supports Extending Peacekeepers' Stint in Lebanon
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Friday recommended the Security Council extend UN peacekeepers' presence in south Lebanon by six months, provided Lebanon deploys its own army in the zone.
Annan also called for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) which has had a presence since 1978, to be deployed throughout the area evacuated by Israeli troops on May 24th, after 22 years' occupation.
The Lebanese Government had opposed UNIFIL deployment.
It has also denounced a number of Israeli violations of its territory.
The UN's Resolution 425 approved by the Security Council in 1978, calls for the Israeli retreat from south Lebanon and requires UNIFIL peacekeepers to help Lebanon re-impose its authority in the south.
In a report to the council, Annan confirmed that "the government of Israel has committed itself to the removal of all Israeli violations by the end of July."
Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard said two "technical" encroachments by Israel still existed in south Lebanon.
Annan noted, however, there was "a good chance" to achieve the objectives of Security Council resolution 425 in the coming months"
UN peacekeepers would remain through January 31st, 2000 "on the understanding that the force will be enabled to deploy and function fully throughout its area of operation, and the Lebanese authorities will strengthen their own presence in the area, as they have already decided, by deploying additional troops and internal security forces," he said.
He added "the situation in the Israel-Lebanon sector falls well short of peace, and the potential for serious incidents still exists."
"It is essential that the UNIFIL's deployment be closely coordinated with the Lebanese force," Annan said.
The UNIFIL force consists of some 5,000 soldiers from 11 countries - UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
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