The head of the UN peacekeepers in Lebanon said his force has no evidence that weapons are being illegally transferred to the country’s south, pushing back against US and Israeli criticism of the mission.
The UN Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the force, known as UNIFIL, which is due to expire August 31.
US and Israel officials have called for improvements in its efforts to prevent Hezbollah from expanding its arsenal following the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese terror group.
Maj. Gen. Michael Beary said the 10,500-strong force has successfully maintained the peace for more than a decade.
“We should not be looking to upset that,” he told The Associated Press Wednesday aboard the UNIAO, the Brazilian flagship for the UNIFIL maritime force.
Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres informed the Security Council in a letter that he intended to look at ways in which UNIFIL could beef up its efforts “regarding the illegal presence of armed personnel, weapons or infrastructure inside its area of operations.”
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on August 8 that the United States wants UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon to take on an expanded mission and investigate alleged violations by Hezbollah in the volatile area.
“We share the secretary-general’s strong desire to enhance UNIFIL’s efforts to prevent the spread of illegal arms in southern Lebanon,” said Haley in a statement. “These arms –- which are almost entirely in the hands of Hezbollah terrorists –- threaten the security and stability of the region.”
“UNIFIL must increase its capacity and commitment to investigating and reporting these violations,” she added.