UN bringing stability to Lebanon -- Irish general
SOUTH Lebanon is now more stable than it has been in 30 years, according to the Irish general who is the deputy force commander of the United Nations mission.
Sitting in his office at the mission headquarters at Naqoura, by the shores of the Mediterranean, Brigadier General Pat Phelan put this stability down to three factors: the increase in the number of troops deployed there; the more robust mandate of the mission; and, significantly, the co-operation and co-ordination by the UN with the opposition factions.
General Phelan disclosed that senior UN officers chair regular meetings between Israeli military commanders and their counterparts from the Lebanese armed forces at a location near the border between the two countries.
The Kilkenny man, who initially served in Lebanon with the second Irish battalion to be deployed there in 1978, said: "We have extensive liaison and co-ordination systems to reduce tensions as they arise and there are exceptional new measures that did not exist in my previous life here."
He singled out the triangular meetings, which could be called by the force commander when issues arose that needed to be discussed frankly by both parties to the conflict.
"I would have considered that inconceivable even 10 years ago," he remarked.
Now in his sixth deployment in Lebanon, General Phelan recalled when Lebanese groups fired anti-aircraft guns from the banana groves and the South Lebanon Army operated in an area known as 'the enclave' under the control of the Israelis.
The Lebanese armed forces were reflected on a token basis as a small group. Now they are deployed from the River Litani down to the temporary dividing line between the two countries.
"This has added a huge stability," he said.