Thousands of southern Lebanon residents demonstrated Sunday outside the headquarters of the UN Interim Forces to ask for the international community's protection after Israel leaves the area.
Waving Lebanese flags and blaring patriotic songs from car stereos and loudspeakers, more than 3,000 protesters poured in from dozens of villages to the coastal town of Naqoura, where 4,500 UN troops are based.
The demonstrators handed to UNIFIL officers a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, asking for UN protection after Israel's planned departure in July.
The letter said the residents were ready to negotiate with the Lebanese state to disarm and therefore the (Israeli-allied) South Lebanon Army would not be an obstacle to peace in this region.
The letter also asked the UN forces to ensure an open border between Lebanon and Israel.
UN troops have been stationed in southern Lebanon since 1978, after UN Resolution 425 called for Israel's immediate withdrawal from the area. Resolution 520, passed in 1982, calls for the removal of all foreign troops from Lebanon, including Syrian ones.
ARABS URGE UN TO STOP ISRAELI ATTACKS IN LEBANON
The secretary general of the Arab League, Esmat Abdel Meguid, has urged the UN Security Council to help end Israeli attacks in south Lebanon.
In a message sent Sunday to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Abdel Meguid called for the immediate application of UN Security Council resolutions 425 and 426.
Abdel Meguid, who has vowed to intensify diplomatic contacts after Israeli raids on civilian targets in Lebanon on May 4, was to call for renewed European Union pressure on Israel in a meeting in Cairo Wednesday with EU envoy Miguel Moratinos.
Arab League ambassadors who met here Saturday to discuss the situation in Lebanon renewed their appeal for the 22 Arab League members to freeze normalization with Israel.
ISRAEL WARNS OF HARSH STRIKES AFTER LEBANON PULLOUT
On the Israeli front, Israeli leaders warned Sunday of harsh ripostes in case of attack after its looming withdrawal from south Lebanon, and blamed Syria for the latest upsurge in cross-border violence.
"The rules of the game will be much tougher after our pullout," Prime Minister Ehud Barak was quoted by public radio as telling a meeting of his cabinet.
Israel has pledged to go ahead with plans to withdraw its troops by July, despite the fierce escalation of fighting last week.
"Israel will continue to react harshly in Lebanon in case of attack against our towns and villages on the northern border, irrespective of our pullout," he said.
Israeli bombarded power stations in Lebanon on the night of Thursday to Friday in retaliation for Hizbolla rocket attacks on its northern territory which followed the death of two Lebanese civilians and the wounding of 14 more in Israeli strikes.
One Israeli soldier was killed and dozens of Israeli civilians wounded, most of them suffering shock - (AFP)
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