The U.N. Security Council on Friday criticized recent incidents in southern Lebanon targeting U.N. peacekeepers and called on the Lebanese Armed Forces to deploy more troops to the tense area.
France called for the special council meeting following incidents on June 29th and July 3rd and July 4th in which angry villagers blocked roads to prevent peacekeepers from performing a military drill. Some threw stones, injuring at least three peacekeepers.
The force commander, Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas, sent an open letter to the communities in the south late Thursday urging villagers to discuss their grievances directly with the U.N. peacekeepers. He assured them the force has no "hidden agenda."
A press statement read after the meeting strongly deplored the incidents and called on all parties to ensure the freedom of movement of the U.N. force, known as UNIFIL, which has about 12,100 military personnel from 30 countries.
The U.N. force was deployed along Lebanon's border with Israel after the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war to help 15,000 Lebanese troops extend their authority into the south for the first time in decades and create a buffer zone free of Hezbollah fighters.
France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters that UNIFIL's maneuvers had been coordinated with the Lebanese Armed Forces, and local people had been informed, "so it was not a surprise (and) there was no objection." He said the injured troops were from France and other countries which he didn't name.
"We cannot accept the obstacles to the freedom of movement of UNIFIL," Araud said.
He said the council statement "shows its support" for the Lebanese authorities and UNIFIL in implementing the 2006 resolution that ended the Israeli-Hezbollah war, which authorizes the U.N. force to go anywhere in its area of deployment in south Lebanon.