France to keep command of UN troops in Lebanon

25th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 24, 2006 (AFP) - The French general in command of the United Nations interim force in Lebanon will retain his post after the force undergoes a robust expansion under a UN resolution, the UN spokesman said Friday.

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 24, 2006 (AFP) - The French general in command of the United Nations interim force in Lebanon will retain his post after the force undergoes a robust expansion under a UN resolution, the UN spokesman said Friday.

The force is seen as crucial in shoring up a tenuous ceasefire between Israel and the Shiite militia Hezbollah that came into effect August 14 after a 34-day conflict, under the terms of a UN resolution co-authored by France and the United States.

"General Alain Pellegrini leads UNIFIL and he will continue to do so" with the "very strong support" of Secretary General Kofi Annan, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

The French defense minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, had indicated on August 16 that France was prepared to assure the command of an expanded UNIFIL until February 2007, when Pellegrini's mandate is scheduled to expire.

The appointment of a commander of a UN peacekeeping force is the responsibility of the secretary general.

Command is often given to a military officer of the country providing the biggest share of troops to the force in question.

For the Lebanon force, Italy already has committed to sending about 3,000 troops, making it the biggest contributor. France announced Thursday it would supply an additional 1,600 troops, bringing its total contribution to 2,000.

UNIFIL — which was originally set up 28 years ago as a toothless observer force on the Israeli border in southern Lebanon — has been authorised to expand from its 2,000-strong force to up to 15,000 soldiers under UN Resolution 1701, approved on August 11.

Its new mandate will allow its members to use weapons in self-defence, to protect civilians and to prevent hostile activity in the border area.

Its primary missions are to assist the Lebanese army take control of southern Lebanon from Hezbollah, and to provide humanitarian relief for the one million Lebanese civilians displaced by Israel's offensive.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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