Posted by: sean | August 3, 2007

UNIFIL and Hezbollah

There have been rumors circulating since last Spring that UNIFIL had met with Hezbollah in order to get the latter’s cooperation for protecting international troops in the south. Blanford confirms that with a recent article in the CS Monitor:

The growing threat of attack by Sunni radicals apparently spurred the leading European troop-contributing states to seek the Shiite Hizbullah’s cooperation. According to UNIFIL sources, intelligence agents from Italy, France, and Spain met with Hizbullah representatives in the southern city of Sidon in April. As a result, some Spanish peacekeepers subsequently were “escorted” on some of their patrols by Hizbullah members in civilian vehicles, the UNIFIL sources say.

A day after the six peacekeepers were killed last month, Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos spoke with Manucher Mottaki, the foreign minister of Iran, Hizbullah’s main patron. According to a Hizbullah official in south Lebanon, there has been at least one meeting between the Shiite party and Spanish UNIFIL officers since the bombing.

UNIFIL has long had quiet channels of communication with Hizbullah stretching back to the late 1980s, a recognition of the Shiite group’s clout in the south. But UNIFIL commander General Graziano says that although troop-contributing governments may talk to Hizbullah, the peacekeeping battalions are only authorized to liaise with the Lebanese Army. Contacts with Hizbullah or any other Lebanese political party is not permitted, he says.

“I highly forbid any relation that is not authorized by this headquarters for any contingent that is dressed in the blue beret to have contact with any party without my authorization,” he says.

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