Belfast Telegraph

UN chief backs Maj Gen Mike Beary in Lebanon peacekeeping mission

The head of the United Nations has said he has confidence in the Irish general in charge of peacekeeping in Lebanon.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres gave Major General Mike Beary his full backing after criticisms that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) mission along the border with Israel is "giving terrorism a pass".

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley launched a personalised broadside a week ago when she claimed the Irish peacekeeping chief was "blind" to Hezbollah's activities in the region.

She claimed there is a "massive flow of illegal weapons" into south Lebanon, a nd accused him of an "embarrassing" lack of understanding of the threat posed by Hezbollah.

Maj Gen Beary took command of the Unifil mission last year and earlier this year said he was not "overly concerned" about the risk Hezbollah may pose in the region.

Forty countries are involved in the mission, with about 380 Irish soldiers.

Unifil was mandated in 1978 to supervise the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the region. It oversees the so-called blue-line that separates the Israeli military from the Lebanese army and Hezbollah.

The UN decided on Wednesday to extend the mission.

In a statement on behalf of Mr Guterres, the UN said: "The secretary-general emphasises the need for the parties to build on the prevailing calm, to focus on the goal of a permanent ceasefire and to act proactively to address all outstanding issues in the implementation of resolution 1701 and other relevant Security Council resolutions.

"Unifil, in close co-ordination with the Office of the United Nations Special Co-ordinator, is ready to lend its full support to the parties in this process.

"The secretary-general extends his gratitude to the countries contributing troops to Unifil. He expresses his confidence in the leadership and staff of the mission."

Unifil reports almost daily breaches of UN resolution 1701, passed after the 2006 war in south Lebanon and Israel.

Some relate to simple incursions into Israel or Lebanese territory, while drones, some for surveillance, are a common sight over the unstable region.

The mission also aims to ensure the region is "not utilised for hostile activities of any kind".

The Department of Foreign Affairs said: " Despite the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, Unifil has helped to ensure that southern Lebanon has remained an area of relative calm since 2006.

"Maj Gen Beary's outstanding record of leadership in numerous international peacekeeping roles speaks for itself."

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