UN chief backs Irish general in Lebanon

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

UN chief backs Irish general in Lebanon

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres gave Major General Mike Beary his full backing following 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, and 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.

Earlier this year, he said that 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 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.

“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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