Security Council Extends UNIFIL Mandate, Condemns Tensions, Urges Israel to Pull Out of Ghajar

The Security Council on Monday issued a new condemnation of tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border as it renewed the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon without changes to its rules of engagement.

In a unanimous resolution, the Council said it had determined that "the situation in Lebanon continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security" and had therefore decided to extend UNIFIL's mandate until 31 August 2011.

The Council strongly urged all parties concerned to respect the cessation of hostilities, to prevent any violation of the U.N.-drawn Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel, and to cooperate fully with the world body and UNIFIL.

It also urged the Israeli government to speed up the withdrawal of its troops from the northern part of the border village of Ghajar in coordination with U.N. peacekeepers.

Lebanon's U.N. envoy Nawaf Salam complained of "brazen" Israeli infringements of U.N. resolutions covering the border, including flights in Lebanese airspace.

While Israel's deputy U.N. representative Haim Waxman told the Council that the August 3 clash in Adeisseh "must not happen again." He called on the Lebanese army to strictly respect the Blue Line.

The Security Council showed its anger by saying it "deplores strongly the recent incidents involving UNIFIL peacekeepers." It also warned both sides to keep to an agreed cessation of hostilities on the frontier.

UNIFIL was set up in 1978 to monitor the border between Israel and southern Lebanon. It was beefed up and given a wider role after the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah.

There are currently about 12,700 soldiers, police, experts and observers in the force.(AFP-Naharnet)