U.N. in Lebanon urges cooperation with peacekeepers
BEIRUT (Reuters) - The head of U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon appealed on Thursday for cooperation from residents in the south of the country after several confrontations near the border with Israel.
Last week villagers seized weapons from French UNIFIL peacekeepers and wounded their patrol leader.
That followed a series of standoffs or clashes in the border area, a stronghold of the militant Hezbollah group, and complaints that UNIFIL had stepped up its patrols and was failing to coordinate with Lebanese army forces in the region.
UNIFIL, which was set up in 1978 and expanded in 2006 to monitor the end of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, has insisted it must have freedom of movement.
"As you all know, some recent incidents have cast a shadow on the positive environment in which UNIFIL peacekeepers have been working, in close coordination with the Lebanese army, for your safety and security," Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas said in an open letter released on Thursday.
Cuevas said UNIFIL respected the privacy and property of the villagers in the south, and that problems should be resolved by discussion "not by obstructing the work of the peacekeepers or by beating them."
Israel has criticized the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Lebanon for not stopping weapons it says are still flowing to Hezbollah guerrillas in the south. The United Nations says that is the responsibility of Lebanese authorities.
The Israeli military published an aerial photograph on Wednesday it said showed Hezbollah positions and weapons storage dumps in the south Lebanon village of al-Khiam.
The United Nations Security Council is due to meet on Friday, at France's request, to discuss the confrontations. Continued...