Lebanon Rejects Israeli Call for Modifying UNIFIL Mission

A Spanish U.N. peacekeeper looks to the U.N-demarcated "Blue Line" border between Lebanon and Israel, during a foot patrol in the disputed Chebaa farms area of southeast Lebanon, Tuesday Feb. 24, 2015. A Spanish peacekeeper was killed in south Lebanon last month during a flare-up in hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah. The U.N. peacekeeping force known as UNIFIL has been deployed in south Lebanon since 1978 and monitors the border between Lebanon and Israel. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Lebanon Tuesday rejected an Israeli call to change the missions of a U.N. peacekeeping force patrolling the Lebanese-Israeli border before a U.N. Security Council vote to renew its mandate.

Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war, and the United Nations force, UNIFIL, is tasked with monitoring a ceasefire between the two sides.

Lebanon’s caretaker Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe separately received the ambassadors of the council’s five permanent members ahead of Friday’s vote, Lebanon’s National News Agency said.

He handed them a memorandum stressing that “Lebanon is attached to renewing (the mission of) UNIFIL, without modifying its mandate or its numbers,” it added.

Hizbullah has also rejected any change to the nature of the force’s mission.

Set up in 1978, UNIFIL was beefed up after a devastating month-long war in 2006 between Israel and Hizbullah.

Israel accuses UNIFIL, whose latest mandate expires at the end of August, of not being active enough against Hizbullah.

It accuses the group of stockpiling weapons at the border, and is pushing for the U.N. force to be allowed to inspect private property.

U.N. chief Antonio Guterres in June called for an improved surveillance capacity for the force, including thermal-imaging cameras, hi-tech binoculars and drones.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Kelly Craft, in May called for the Security Council to empower UNIFIL or alter its staffing and resources to better fulfill its mandate.

Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah later the same month rejected any change to the nature of the peacekeeping mission, and lashed out at U.S. pressure over the issue.


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