UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has disclosed that UN peacekeeping forces are working to enforce the demilitarization of southern Lebanon, below the Litani River. The UN hopes to gain the cooperation of the Lebanese Army, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported Saturday.
The area involved was declared off-limits to the Shi'ite Hezbollah militia at the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Al-Hayat added that Ban has told members of the UN Security Council that both Lebanon and Israel have agreed to negotiate maritime security issues through the United Nations and with assistance from local experts. The two countries have been at loggerheads over the boundary between their maritime economic zones, a sensitive issue due to Israel's major deep-sea gas finds off its northern coast.
Regarding southern Lebanon, reports have increased over the past two years of the establishment of dozens of strongholds and weapons caches by Hezbollah. This has happened despite the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon to verify that Hezbollah is not conducting operations in the area.
Ban reportedly said UNIFIL had concluded work on its plans for the south of the country on June 25 and is awaiting an official response from the Lebanese government on whether it will cooperate.
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