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Military chief of UN mission in Lebanon holds meetings with local authorities

4 May 2007 The military head of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today began a series of meetings with local authorities in the south of the country, the start of a concerted effort by the peacekeeping mission to strengthen its relationships with the communities where it operates.

UNIFIL Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano held a meeting in the town of Tyre with the mayor, other representatives of the area’s municipal authorities, as well as local parliamentarians and members of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). There were also representatives of the Italian, Ghanaian, French, Turkish, Chinese and Portuguese UNIFIL contingents deployed in the Tyre area.

The Force Commander and his interlocutors discussed security issues, the humanitarian work undertaken by UNIFIL and the Mission’s cooperation with the LAF before fielding questions from the other attendees, according to a press release issued by the Force.

“I consider the relationship between UNIFIL and the local communities a high priority,” Maj.-Gen. Graziano said at the end of today’s meeting. “It is essential that these relations are characterized by trust, confidence and mutual respect.

He noted that the Force, which was established in 1978, has traditionally had good relations with local communities. While its mandate, structure and size changed following last summer’s war between Israel and Hizbollah, the mission “remains committed to maintaining these relations and protecting and supporting the population in the south,” he said.

A Security Council resolution last August, which ended the 34-day war, authorized an expansion in both the mandate and size of UNIFIL. As of 11 April this year, there were 13,058 military personnel, which includes almost 11,000 troops and nearly 1,700 others in the maritime task force, as well as nearly 500 local and international civilian staff.

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