Lebanon has called for a UN peacekeeping force’s mandate to be renewed without changes so that it can continue working to prevent hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah.
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil conveyed Lebanon’s position to representatives of the UN Security Council’s permanent members on Tuesday.
The peacekeeping mission known as UNIFIL is up for renewal when its mandate expires on August 31. Israel and the US are pressing for improvements to the force to combat what they say is the spread of illegal arms to Hezbollah-dominated southern Lebanon.
The UNIFIL commander in Lebanon and the Lebanese government reject the claims. Bassil said renewing the force’s mandate is paramount to the country’s security. He pointed to what he said were daily Israeli violations of UN resolutions and Lebanese sovereignty.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, blasted the commander of the UNIFIL peacekeepers on Friday, accusing him of turning a blind eye to weapons smuggling by Hezbollah, considered a terror group by Israel and the US.
Haley had said the 10,500-strong UNIFIL force was “not doing its job effectively” and singled out its Irish leader, Major General Michael Beary.
“What I find totally baffling is the view of the UNIFIL commander General Beary,” Haley told reporters, accusing him of ignoring Hezbollah’s arms caches. “General Beary says there are no Hezbollah weapons.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely echoed Haley on Sunday.
“We shall not allow this blindness to continue,” she told Israel Radio.