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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

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Oct 23rd
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow US and Western Governments arrow UN troops in Lebanon ready to fight terror: Spanish PM
UN troops in Lebanon ready to fight terror: Spanish PM PDF Print E-mail
Written by AFP   
Saturday, 05 January 2008

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (C) meets with UN peacekeepers at their base in Blat, Lebanon. Zapatero has said that his country's troops serving with the UN force in Lebanon are ready to fight terrorism in order to achieve peace in the region. AFP
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (C) meets with UN peacekeepers at their base in Blat, Lebanon. Zapatero has said that his country's troops serving with the UN force in Lebanon are ready to fight terrorism in order to achieve peace in the region. AFP

BLAT, Lebanon (AFP) - Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Saturday his country's troops with the UN force in Lebanon were ready to fight terrorism in order to achieve peace in the region.

"Your mission is to confront terrorism in this region, and it is something that you could encounter in attempts to establish peace," he told Spanish peacekeepers in the southern Lebanese village of Blat.

"Our aim is to reach a comprehensive and just peace" in the region, he said, according to an Arabic translation of his speech in Spanish during a ceremony at the Spanish contingent's headquarters in Blat.

"Peace in this region is directly linked to world peace, stability and the fight against terrorism which has been the cause of many crises around the world," he said.

Zapatero and Spanish Defence Minister Jose Antonio Alonso arrived early on Saturday on a surprise visit to meet Lebanese officials and Spanish peacekeepers serving with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The Spanish premier met his Lebanese counterpart Fuad Siniora after arriving at Beirut airport, officials said.

Spain has nearly 1,100 troops in southeastern Lebanon near the border with Israel as part of UNIFIL, which was boosted to more than 13,000 soldiers after the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah.

Six members of the Spanish contingent were killed last June 24 when a booby-trapped car exploded as their patrol vehicle passed by.

Unconfirmed media reports said the attack was carried out by Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists, and Alonso attributed it to "a terrorist cell comprising possibly foreign individuals, that is, non-Lebanese."

Last week, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo said Syria's secret service has threatened Spanish soldiers in Lebanon in a bid to block the extradition of suspected arms dealer Monzer Al-Kassar to the United States.

Spain has been one of the leading countries trying to end Lebanon's long-standing political crisis amid deep divisions between the pro-Western ruling coalition and the opposition, backed by Syria and Iran.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has made several trips to Beirut and to powerful neighbour Syria in a bid to help break the deadlock over the past few months.

Lebanon has also been without a president since the mandate of pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud expired on November 23 amid sharp divisions between the ruling majority and the opposition, which is backed by Syria and Iran.

AFP

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Spanish PM holds talks in Lebanon, inspects peacekeeping troops
The Associated Press
Saturday, January 5, 2008

BEIRUT, Lebanon: Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero held talks Saturday with Prime Minister Fuad Saniora on Lebanon's deepening political crisis, which has produced a vacuum in the presidency.

Zapatero, who arrived here earlier Saturday on a previously unannounced visit, also traveled to southern Lebanon where he inspected his country's troops serving with the U.N. peacekeeping force overseeing a truce along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

During the 45-minute meeting at Beirut airport, Saniora briefed Zapatero on "the situation in Lebanon and the continued vacuum in the presidency post," the state-run National News Agency reported.

Lebanon has been without a president since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term ended Nov. 23, plunging the country into the worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

Saniora's Western-backed government has been locked for more than a year in a fierce power struggle with the Syrian-backed opposition led by the militant Hezbollah group.

A parliamentary session to elect a new president was postponed for the 11th time on Dec. 28 with feuding factions deadlocked over the shape of a future government. A new parliament session has been set for Jan. 12.

Lawmakers on both sides have agreed to back Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as a compromise candidate, but parliament must first amend the constitution to allow a sitting military chief to become president.

Zapatero, accompanied by Defense Minister Jose Antonio Alonso, later flew by a U.N. helicopter to the southern town of Marjayoun near the border with Israel. He inspected 1,100 Spanish troops serving with the U.N. peacekeeping force, known as UNIFIL, which is increasingly threatened by al-Qaida-inspired militants and political instability in Beirut.

Zapatero had lunch with Spanish officers and soldiers and thanked them for their efforts in maintaining peace in southern Lebanon, the NNA reported.

"I know that your mission requires sacrifice because you are away from your families and parents," he said, addressing troops.

Referring to six Spanish peacekeepers killed in south Lebanon last year, Zapatero said, "Your noble mission sometimes requires from you a big sacrifice. On this occasion, we remember our colleagues who fell martyrs last year for the sake of this mission."

He stressed that the presence of Spanish troops in Lebanon and elsewhere was to serve world peace. "Peace is our goal... Peace in this region is directly linked to peace and stability in the world and combatting world terrorism which causes many crises in the world," Zapatero said.

In June, a car bombing killed six peacekeepers from the Spanish contingent. Other bombings recently have been thwarted by authorities, with army intelligence announcing in October the arrest of seven Palestinian militants who planned attacks.

No group has claimed responsibility for the June attack or another one that followed in July. But in a July videotape, al-Qaida's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri blessed the attack against the Spanish contingent.

The 13,530-strong U.N. force was deployed in southern Lebanon in 2006 along with 15,000 Lebanese troops following a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.



Last Updated ( Saturday, 05 January 2008 )
 
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