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Thursday, July 29, 2010     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Lebanon builds up troops near southern border after attacks on UN peacekeepers

NICOSIA — Lebanon has decided to bolster its military presence near the border with Israel.


Officials said the Lebanese Army has been ordered to send a brigade, or about 1,500 troops, to the south. They said the reinforcements would ensure security as well as freedom of movement for the United Nations peacekeeping force, called the UN Interim Forces In Lebanon.

The Lebanese decision took place several weeks after a series of attacks on UNIFIL patrols in Shi'ite villages in the south. Officials said Hizbullah was believed to have directed the assaults, which included the seizure of weapons from a UNIFIL patrol from the French contingent.

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"This step announced by the Lebanese government is a positive development that will be met with praise by Lebanon's partner in UNIFIL," French ambassador Dennis Pietton said.

Officials said the military deployment began on July 26 and would require about a week until completion. They said the Lebanese forces would accompany UNIFIL patrols throughout the south.

Until July, the Lebanese Army has deployed fewer than 1,000 troops south of the Litani River. In contrast, UNIFIL was operating a force of 13,500 peacekeepers from NATO and other states.

"This is news that we hoped to hear because it is important to support Lebanese troops in the south, in accordance with [UN Security Council] Resolution 1701 at the time of its implementation," Pietton said.

Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr has confirmed the military redeployment to the south. Officials said the 8th Brigade would be sent to the south and another brigade could be added in 2011 if necessary.

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