SecretaryGeneral appoints Italian officer to assist UN mission in Lebanon

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today appointed a senior Italian officer to help direct the military strategy of the strengthened UN force in Lebanon, while the Force Commander on the ground agreed with his Lebanese counterpart to hold joint patrols once Israeli troops have completed their withdrawal.Lieutenant General Giovanni Ridinó will serve as Director of the newly established Strategic Military Cell for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which will be located at UN Headquarters in New York, a spokesman told reporters today.“The SMC (Strategic Military Cell) will provide military guidance to UNIFIL at the strategic level, and will report to the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations,” said spokesman Yves Sorokobi.Lt. Gen Ridinó has served in the Italian Army for over 30 years and, among numerous other posts, he has served as the Deputy Commander of the Multinational Division (Southeast) of the Stabilization Force for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) and the commander of the Territorial Military Autonomous Command for Sicily.In Lebanon, UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Alain Pellegrini met with General Michael Sleiman, Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and both agreed to hold joint patrols along the Blue Line with Israel once all Israeli forces have withdrawn.“We had a very productive meeting. I briefed General Sleiman on the continued deployment of UNIFIL II, and on some of the issues we have to tackle,” said Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini. “I am very happy to announce that both UNIFIL and LAF will conduct a joint inspection of the Line to make certain there are no discrepancies.”UNIFIL is now up to a strength of 5,000 and last week Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini said he expected Israel to have completed its withdrawal from Lebanon by the end of this month.Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the fighting last month, mandated strengthening the original UNIFIL that has been deployed in southern Lebanon since 1978.In his latest report on the resolution Mr. Annan said there was a “general understanding” that Israeli troops would completely withdraw once the UN Force reaches 5,000 troops and the Lebanese army is ready to deploy at the full strength of 15,000 troops in the south of the country.

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