UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Wary of EU Ban on Hizbullah Military

(Financial Times-UK) Abigail Fielding-Smith - Last month, the EU designated Hizbullah's military wing a terrorist organization, a mostly symbolic move unlikely to have much practical impact but one that further isolates the group internationally. However, almost a third of UNIFIL's 10,000 peacekeepers in southern Lebanon are from European countries and most people living in the hills they patrol are staunch Hizbullah supporters. "People are not going to accept you living among them and calling them terrorists," a Hizbullah official told the Financial Times shortly after the designation. An editorial in Al Akhbar, a newspaper associated with the Lebanese political bloc that Hizbullah leads, said the troops were no longer welcome: "From now on, Europe must realize that its soldiers serving under the UN flag in southern Lebanon are operating behind enemy lines." UNIFIL has been keen to stress that its troops are there as representatives of the UN, not of individual countries, and officials say so far there has been no sign of a backlash. European countries with troops in south Lebanon are likely to have received indirect assurances that their security would not be affected before taking the decision, said Timur Goksel, of the American University of Beirut, a former UNIFIL spokesman. "UNIFIL's presence serves Hizbullah in multiple ways, for their own security and for the benefit of their people economically."

2013-08-09 00:00:00

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