UNIFIL Begins Final, Full Deployment in South Lebanon

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) began the final and full deployment Saturday morning in south Lebanon after getting permission from the Lebanese authorities.

UN spokesman announced that the operation started from 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) in 20 positions along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

UNIFIL had put its troops in six positions several days ago and the deployment suspended after the Lebanese government decided to verify the final border encroachment at Yaroun that was surrounded by landmines.

Prime Minister Salim Hoss said Friday the verification process of Israel's post-withdrawal border violations was over and the peacekeeping forces were free to fan out across the liberated zone.

"We have been notified that the encroachment has been terminated", Hoss said, adding that UNIFIL can now carry out the deployment along the entire border line any time it deems proper.

Later on Friday, President Emile Lahoud also gave nod to the UNIFIL's deployment in the south.

UN Middle East envoy Roed Larsen, who is mediating between Beirut and Jerusalem in a bid to launch the UNIFIL deployment along the border as soon as possible, released a statement in Beirut, praising the cooperation of both sides with the UN.

Meanwhile, Lebanese Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Michel Murr will discuss with other Lebanese leaders the deployment of a Lebanese joint task force of 500 army and 500 policemen in south Lebanon. The task force is expected to start the deployment on Monday.

On the other hand, Hezbollah, who controlled south Lebanon after Israel's pullout on May 24, withdrew two observation post along the border before UNIFIL's full deployment.

UNIFIL was set up under U.N. Security Council Resolution 425 of March 1978 to enter south Lebanon as soon as Israel withdrew from the area, which it invaded in 1978.

The Lebanese government had delayed UNIFIL's full deployment several times since the Israeli pullout, citing Israeli violations of the so-called "blue line", drafted by the United Nations to ensure Israel's withdrawal fulfilled Security Council resolutions of 1978.

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