UN Security Council Extends Peacekeeping Force in South Lebanon

The council expresses 'deep concern' at violations of the 2006 resolution that ended the war between Israel and Hezbollah; the resolution also warns against attempts to threaten the stability of Lebanon amid escalating conflict in Syria.

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to extend the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon for another year, saying the situation there remains a threat to international peace and security.

The council expressed "deep concern" at violations of the 2006 resolution that ended the war between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

The UN force known as UNIFIL, which has been in southern Lebanon since 1978, was expanded after the 2006 war so peacekeepers could deploy along the border with Israel to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into the south for the first time in decades.

The resolution adopted Thursday by the council extends the force's mandate until August 31, 2013.

The resolution also warned against attempts to threaten the security and stability of Lebanon amid outbursts of violence and escalating tensions in the country fueled by the 17-month conflict in neighboring Syria.

The UN Security Council condemned "all attempts to threaten the security and stability of Lebanon, reaffirming its determination to ensure that no such acts of intimidation will prevent UNIFIL from implementing its mandate."

A roadside bomb wounded five French peacekeepers in southern Lebanon in December, one of several attacks on the UN force last year. France blamed Syria for the attack, saying it had acted through its Lebanese ally, powerful Shi'ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah.

Syria, which has had far-reaching influence in Lebanon for decades, denied any links to the attack. Syrian President Bashar Assad withdrew troops from Lebanon in 2005 after a 29-year presence and Hezbollah remains a strong ally.

France, Lebanon's former colonial power, has contributed the largest number of troops to the UN peacekeeping force and is increasingly concerned the Syrian crisis - which began as peaceful pro-democracy protests - could spread into Lebanon.

In an annual foreign policy speech on Monday, French President Francois Hollande said a solution to the Syrian crisis had to be found before it spread beyond its borders.

"I realize the difficulty of the task and the risks, but what is at stake goes far beyond Syria," he said. "It concerns the entire security of the Middle East and especially the independence and stability of Lebanon."

Despite government efforts to insulate it from Syria's turmoil, Lebanon has seen armed clashes in its two largest cities, and earlier this month authorities said they uncovered a Syrian plot to destabilize the country.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern that the violence in Syria could spread to Lebanon.

The force has an authorized strength of 15,000 troops. The UN says 11,530 troops were on the ground at the end of July.