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Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
Lebanon on UN agenda
Israeli soldiers at Israel/Lebanon border
Israel has warned Syria not to send in its army after the withdrawal
By UN correspondent Mark Devenport

The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has discussed Israel's plans to withdraw from Southern Lebanon in a telephone conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak.

The UN is starting a speedy assessment of how it should go about trying to guarantee security in the area following Israel's confirmation of a unilateral withdrawal by the end of July.

UN peacekeepers currently monitor the sporadic clashes between Israel and fighters from the Islamic Hezbollah group.

It is unclear whether Israel will be forced to withdraw under fire and how many - if any - of its militia allies from the South Lebanon Army might try to stay on.

Peacekeepers' role

Some diplomats at the UN are predicting a need to significantly strengthen the UN force in Lebanon to deal with the uncertain new situation.
South Lebanon Army
The SLA's future is still uncertain

Others argue, however, that UNIFIL should be updated but not necessarily increased in number to take on a more active role helping the Lebanese Government to establish its authority in the south.

The UN Middle East peace mediator, Terje Larsen, is travelling from Beirut to Damascus on Thursday.

He is briefing both the Lebanese and Syrian Governments about the UN's response to the Israeli withdrawal.

Any change in the UN peacekeepers' strength would require the approval of both Beirut and the UN Security Council.

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Middle East Contents

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See also:

25 Jun 99 | Middle East
Q & A: Southern Lebanon
01 Apr 00 | Middle East
Syria dismisses Lebanon troop idea
05 Jan 00 | Middle East
The Golan: Territory and security
23 Jul 99 | Middle East
President Assad: Master tactician
03 Apr 00 | Middle East
Israel's allies to stay in Lebanon
05 Apr 00 | Middle East
Israel releases Lebanese prisoner
05 Mar 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Leaving Lebanon
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