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Annan recommends continued presence of UN force in southern Lebanon

Annan recommends continued presence of UN force in southern Lebanon

The situation in southern Lebanon has returned to one of general stability with sporadic incidents of hostility between Lebanon and Israel, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in his latest report on the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The report, which recommends that the Security Council extend the mandate of UNIFIL for another six months until 31 July, says that although the main source of tension is "the provocative cycle" of Israeli air violations of the Blue Line and Hizbollah anti-aircraft fire, it is also due in part to the volatile situation in the Middle East, and underscores the need for "a comprehensive, just and lasting peace" in the region.

The Secretary-General, noting the growing capacity of the Government of Lebanon to exercise its authority and extend the reach of the Joint Security Forces and the army, calls on that government to continue to "do its utmost to encourage a calm environment."

On organizational matters, Mr. Annan notes that the Force has been reconfigured to 2,000, as requested by the Security Council, and that no further reduction of personnel is planned. He also points out a "serious shortfall" of $93.9 million in the funding of the Force. Thanking troop-contributing countries for their patience on this matter, the Secretary-General appeals to all Member States for prompt payment of outstanding arrears.

The report also raises other concerns that UNIFIL continues to monitor, including an unresolved dispute over a water project on the Hasbani River and casualties resulting from the large number of minefields in the UNIFIL area.