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Annan recommends continued reconfiguration of UN force in Lebanon

Annan recommends continued reconfiguration of UN force in Lebanon

Recommending a six-month extension for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) through the end of July, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for continued reconfiguration of the Force to bring it in line with prevailing conditions and allow for greater mobility, according to a report on the mission released today.

“A reconfigured UNIFIL will continue to contribute towards stability in southern Lebanon by monitoring and observing along the Blue Line,” states the report, which also acknowledges that given the tensions in the region, there is an ongoing need for UN political and diplomatic support for the parties to establish lasting peace and security. “Accordingly, my Personal Representative [Steffan de Mistura] will pursue actively his current efforts, in close consultation with Terje Roed-Larsen, my Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process,” Mr. Annan says.

The Secretary-General calls for a phased reduction of the Force, which was comprised of over 5,700 troops as of 31 March 2001, to a strength of close to 2,000 by the end of the year.

The UNIFIL area of operation has been generally calm, according to the report, which welcomes greater restraint by both parties with regard to the Shab’a farms area. “I would hope that this is indicative of a renewed commitment on both sides to fully honour their obligation to respect the Blue Line,” Mr. Annan writes, adding that “The ongoing Israeli incursions into sovereign Lebanese airspace nevertheless remain a troubling counter-indication.”

“I once again emphasize the critical need for all parties concerned to respect the Blue Line, as repeatedly called for by the Security Council, to cease all violations thereof and to refrain from any action that could serve to destabilize the situation,” the Secretary-General writes. He also calls on Lebanon to take further steps to extend its authority to all of southern Lebanon. “The Government should make a more concerted effort to take full responsibility for the provision of basic services to the population and for the deployment of the army.”