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Lebanon PM urges France to maintain presence as part of UNIFIL

(Xinhua)

08:44, September 02, 2011

BEIRUT, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- The Lebanese prime minister Thursday urged France to maintain its presence as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), pledging his government was committed to preventing attacks against peacekeepers in south Lebanon.

Najib Mikati told French President Nicholas Sarkozy in a letter that "my determination and the government's (determination) to prevent further recurrences of such attacks," referring to an attack in July on a French convoy serving as part of UNIFIL.

"And for this reason I repeat our strong desire for the French forces to remain within the international forces working in Lebanon," Mikati added.

Sarkozy, in a letter to President Michel Suleiman and Mikati in August, warned that Paris might have to reconsider its presence in Lebanon if members of its contingent were attacked again.

On July 26, 2011, a roadside bomb hit a French convoy near the southern coastal city of Sidon, wounding five French peacekeepers. The attack came only a few weeks after another roadside bomb targeted a vehicle of the Italian contingent of UNIFIL, wounding six of its members.

In his letter to Sarkozy, Mikati said he had personally informed the UNIFIL command of his government's commitment to fully implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which put an end to Lebanon's 2006 summer war with Israel, and strengthen cooperation between the Lebanese Army and the peacekeeping force.

In the wake of the 2006 war, the UNIFIL force was beefed up and tasked with maintaining a cessation of hostilities, in addition to monitoring the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

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