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French Version


'The situation in the South could change any minute'

'The situation in the South could change any minute'

The commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Major General Claudio Graziano, said that peacekeepers should be "ready to face any new developments which could affect our area of operations."

"The overall situation in Lebanon is delicate but the situation in the South is rather calm," Graziano said following a visit to the UNIFIL headquarters in its western area of operations in the coastal city of Tyre.

"Beware, however, that the situation in the South could change any minute so let us be prepared to face any threats," Graziano added.

UNIFIL was set up in 1978 to monitor the Lebanon-Israel border after an Israeli invasion of its smaller neighbor.

UNIFIL was expanded after the 34-day summer war with Israel in 2006. Some 13,500 peacekeepers from 27 countries patrol South Lebanon and include a naval force that patrols Lebanese coast.

On Monday, a French peacekeeper was killed and another wounded in South Lebanon in an accidental weapons discharge, UNIFIL said.

UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane said in a statement the two soldiers suffered gunshot injuries in an "accidental discharge of a weapon" at a peacekeeping base.

One soldier died as he was being evacuated by helicopter to a hospital in the port city of Sidon.

Bouziane said the second soldier suffered moderate wounds and was in stable condition. The incident was under investigation, she added.

The latest death brought to 268 the number of fatalities suffered by UNIFIL since the force first deployed in South Lebanon in 1978.

Graziano expressed his condolences to the victim's family, and said: "I am deeply saddened by the loss of life of one of our peacekeepers."

Six peacekeepers serving as part of UNIFIL's Spanish contingent were killed in a June attack against their vehicle in the Southern town of Marjayoun.

Beirut 14-11-2007
Redaction
The Daily Star



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