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UNIFIL to deploy on Lebanese border
By David Rudge

HAIFA (July 25) - UNIFIL's top brass met in Beirut with their Lebanese Army counterparts last night, apparently to coordinate the pending deployment of the international peacekeeping force and Lebanese soldiers throughout south Lebanon and to the border with Israel.

Diplomatic sources said the long-awaited deployment of UNIFIL is expected to begin tomorrow.

This follows the announcement in the Lebanese capital earlier yesterday by UN Middle East envoy Terje Larsen that Israel had rectified all infringements of the UN-determined withdrawal line.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said later that he expects the deployment of UNIFIL and detachments of the Lebanese Army to take place soon after submitting his report on the verification of Israel's withdrawal to the Security Council.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aviv Shiron said Israel welcomed the announcements by Annan and Larsen. "We see this as another step toward Lebanon assuming responsibility and fulfilling its obligations under Security Council Resolution 425 to ensure law and order in south Lebanon," said Shiron.

He said the announcement of the pending deployment followed intensive diplomatic efforts by the Foreign Ministry to press for Lebanon to fulfill its obligations following the IDF's withdrawal in full compliance with Resolution 425.

Larsen met with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Salim Hoss, and other leaders yesterday. During the meeting he received a report from UNIFIL inspection teams that Israel had completed rectifications of violations of the withdrawal line.

Afterward UNIFIL's inspection team, headed by deputy force commander Brig.-Gen. James Sreenan, flew by helicopter with senior Lebanese Army officers over the withdrawal line to confirm Israel's total withdrawal.

UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Seth Kofi Obeng, who was also involved in the final verification process, submitted his report to Annan and later travelled to Beirut with Sreenan and other senior UNIFIL officers to meet with their Lebanese Army counterparts.

"As far as UNIFIL is concerned, there were no more violations of the withdrawal line by Israel from 15:00 hours on Monday," said acting UNIFIL spokesman Daljeet Bagga.

The news that UNIFIL is soon to deploy throughout south Lebanon to the international border was also welcomed by Metulla Local Council Chairman Ya'acov Katz.

He said that ongoing rock-hurling demonstrations by Lebanese, Palestinians, and others near the Fatma crossing point north of the town had virtually brought Metulla to a standstill. Tourists are avoiding the area and farmers are unable to work, he said.

Katz expressed the hope that the deployment of UNIFIL would help restore calm to the region.

In a letter to Foreign Minister David Levy yesterday, Katz called for the development of rental housing for UNIFIL personnel in Metulla.

He also pressed for the formulation of a long-term development plan on the basis of a quiet border in which a free-trade zone would be established and the former Good Fence crossing point would be reopened for Lebanese workers.

© Jerusalem Post 2000

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