Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun affirmed the country’s insistence on the presence of the international forces operating in the South (UNIFIL), pointing out that the Cabinet has taken a decision to “resort to the Security Council to request an extension of its mission for an additional year without modifying its mandate, concept of operations and special rules of engagement.”
Aoun was speaking during a meeting in Baabda on Wednesday with the ambassadors of the five permanent Security Council members, in the presence of UN Secretary-General Representative, Jan Kubis.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab emphasized that “the continued presence of (UNIFIL) forces in southern Lebanon is an international need.”
“The continued work of UNIFIL in Southern Lebanon is an international need, before being a Lebanese demand. The presence of these forces, according to the role assigned to them, is now necessary to prevent tension and redress any danger looming at the borders as a result of Israeli violations,” he said.
However, the Lebanese position seems to be heading towards a clash with the US Administration.
Aoun asserted that the Lebanese Constitution stipulates the respect of private properties, in reference to Washington’s request to expand UNIFIL’s scope of operations to include searching homes in southern villages and towns.
“Our adherence to it is only surpassed by our attachment to public freedoms and full Lebanese sovereignty”, Aoun remarked.
US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea replied by saying that the effectiveness of UNIFIL should be increased.
“We need to consider increasing the effectiveness of UNIFIL to its maximum extent and if it is not able to achieve its mandate fully, we must ask questions about whether the current number is the best,” she told the meeting.
Shea then noted that the private property could not be implemented by UNIFIL, stressing that the issue should be addressed openly and without any hesitation.
Kubis, for his part, confirmed UN readiness to assist and support Lebanon. He also underlined the consolidation and development of partnership between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army.