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Secretary-General recommends six-month extension of UN Interim Force in Lebanon

Secretary-General recommends six-month extension of UN Interim Force in Lebanon

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended extending the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for a six-month period, through January 2002, while calling on all parties in the region to respect the line of Israeli withdrawal, known as the Blue Line.

In a new report to the Security Council, Mr. Annan says the situation along the Blue Line, except in the sector adjacent to the Shab´a farms area, remained generally calm. "Most of the violations of the line were minor and quickly corrected once UNIFIL had raised them with the party concerned," he notes.

At the same time, the report cites recent events involving exchanges of fire which wounded Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian soldiers as evidence that the dangerous situation is potentially threatening to the stability of the region. The Secretary-General stresses that it is of "paramount importance that all parties concerned respect the Blue Line as called for by the Security Council, cease all violations thereof and desist from any action that could serve to destabilize the situation."

Attacks across the line in the Shab'a farms area were the greatest cause of concern, while the persistent Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace have created additional tension, according to the report. "A pledge on 28 June by the Israeli Minister of Defence to my representatives in the region, Terje Roed-Larsen and Staffan de Mistura, to stop at least the flights over cities deep inside Lebanon, has yet to be fulfilled," the Secretary-General notes.

The report also mentions the controversy that arose over a videotape made by UN peacekeepers of vehicles that might have been used in the abduction of three Israeli soldiers last October, and notes that Israel and Lebanon have been offered the opportunity to view the tape, with the identities of non-UN personnel obscured.

Under-Secretary-General for Management Joseph Connor, who has been charged with leading an investigation into the internal handling of the matter, is at UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura today, according to a UN spokesman. "He is meeting with UNIFIL staff as part of his investigation, which he hopes to wrap up by the end of the month," spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York.

The Security Council is expected to hold consultations on Lebanon on Wednesday.