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U.S. Praises Unifil

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The State Department said today that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is doing “a good job” and expressed confidence “that the UN will be able to deal with this situation satisfactorily.” Department spokesman Tom Reston made his remarks with reference to charges by Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan that UNIFIL was permitting Palestinian terrorists to return to south Lebanon.

The U.S. “believes that UNIFIL has been doing a good job of controlling the area,” Reston said. “However, the nature of the terrain and the situation in south Lebanon are such that occasional infiltration in the area controlled by UNIFIL cannot be eliminated totally.” He said he could not confirm reports that Israeli forces which evacuated south Lebanon yesterday had turned over their area to local Lebanese Christian forces instead of UNIFIL. “UN forces have moved into the areas from which the Israelis just withdrew,” he said. “The presence of Christian militias in the area needs to be taken into account. We regard it as a great oversimplification to say that this happened and to imply that UNIFIL will not be carrying out its mandate in southern Lebanon,” he said.

Reston told reporters that “consultations are now taking place between the United Nations and the government of Lebanon on ways to help establish the authority of the Lebanese government throughout south Lebanon.” He declined to comment when asked if the U.S. considered the Israeli withdrawal to be in compliance with UN Resolution 425. “We consider it best not to comment any furthers on these developments at this time,” Reston said.

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