Calling on the Government of Lebanon to return its effective authority over its southern area bordering Israel, the United Nations Security Council today extended for six months the mandate of the UN force in the area.
Unanimously adopting a new resolution, the Council endorsed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recent recommendation to maintain the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), due to expire tomorrow, until 31 July.
The proposal was included in the Secretary-General's latest report on UNIFIL, which says the relative calm of the first six months of 2003 has given way to exchanges of fire across the line of withdrawal, or Blue Line.
"Air strikes and shooting incidents across the Blue Line resulted in the deaths of three Israelis, two soldiers and a civilian, and three Lebanese civilians," the report says. "The persistent Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace and several instances of Hizbollah anti-fire directed towards Israeli villages contributed significantly to the tension."
By today's resolution, the Council condemned all acts of violence, voicing "great concern about the serious breaches and the sea, land and continuing air violations of the withdrawal line." The parties were urged to halt violations, refrain from provocations that could further escalate the tension, and cooperate fully with the UN.
Welcoming the steps taken by the Government of Lebanon to assert its control over the south of the country, including the deployment of Lebanese armed forces, the Council called for the extension of those measures and urged Lebanon to do its utmost to ensure calm throughout the south.
It also applauded progress in removing landmines and took note of communications to the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL of maps and information on the location of mines. The Council stressed the need to provide the Government and the mission with any additional landmine maps and records.