Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today that the stabilization force envisaged for violence-torn Lebanon would be much larger than the current 2,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force already in the south and would give the Government “time to organize and prepare” to extend its authority over all its territory.
“Obviously it’s a Council decision,” Mr. Annan told reporters in Brussels, where he is attending a pledging conference for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Sudan, as he replied to questions about the proposal he first made yesterday with British Prime Minister for an action-oriented package of measures for ending the violence in Lebanon that included “a multi-national force of well-equipped troops that can go in quite quickly.”
Today, he said he hoped the Security Council would provide the new force with a different mandate that would allow it “to operate in the south and help stabilize the situation whilst it gives the Government of Lebanon time to organize itself.”
He added that he hoped that this would allow the Government “to extend its authority throughout the territory including the south, and then give also time for them to sort out the question of the disarmament of the militia.”
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been deployed in the area since 1978, when it was created to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore peace and security, and help the Lebanese Government restore its effective authority in the area. Israel completed its withdrawal in 2000.
In addition to his remarks on the stabilization force, Mr. Annan reiterated his call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, as he shared the podium with European Union High Representative Javier Solana, whom he thanked for having gone to the Middle East to meet with the UN team led by Vijay Nambiar which is currently speaking to the parties.
“The situation is very urgent, and it is imperative that the international community acts to end the fighting,” Mr. Annan said.