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UN troops pull out of Lebanon as tensions mount near Israel border
Special to World Tribune.com MIDDLE EAST NEWSLINE Friday, November 16, 2001
NICOSIA — The United Nations is sharply reducing its peacekeeping force in Lebanon amid increasing tension in the south.
So far, Finland, Ireland, Nepal and Sweden have pulled their troops out of southern Lebanon. On Tuesday, the last members of the 650-member Irish contingent left Lebanon.
Lebanon has appeared jittery over the UN withdrawal. Beirut has urged the world body to maintain its peacekeeping and demining operations in southern Lebanon.
Over the last few weeks, southern Lebanon has been gripped by rising tension involving both Palestinian insurgents as well as Syrian laborers. The focus of Palestinian tension is the Ein Hilwe refugee camp outside of Sidon.
A Lebanese military statement issued on Wednesday said army positions around Ein Hilwe have been repeatedly attacked. Hours earlier, attackers hurled grenades and opened with automatic gunfire toward an army post. No injuries were reported.
Ireland has participated in UN peacekeeping troops since 1978. The Irish contingent also closed their headquarters in Tibnin.
Diplomatic sources said the UN plans to reduce its presence in Lebanon to 3,500 soldiers by January. Earlier this year, the UN deployed an expanded force of about 8,000 soldiers.
France, Italy, Poland and the Ukraine plan to continue their participation in the UN force.
-- Anonymous, November 16, 2001