Monday, June 01, 2009


New York, Jun 1 2009 5:10PM
Italy has taken command of the United Nations maritime task force (MTF), which was deployed off the Lebanese coast in 2006 to curtail arms smuggling following that year's Israel-Hizbollah war.

The naval force, part of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon is the first to be part of a UN peacekeeping mission. The MTF has been deployed on the request of the Lebanese Government to help the country's navy secure territorial waters and help prevent the unauthorized entry of arms and other materials by sea into the Middle Eastern nation.

At a handover ceremony from Belgium to Italy aboard the flagship BNS Leopold I over the weekend, UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Claudio Graziano commended "the constructive relationship between the MTF and Lebanese Navy."

He applauded the "spirit of cooperation" between the two, which he said is crucial to successfully implementing Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war.

Since its operations began in October 2006, the MTF has hailed some 24,000 ships and referred nearly 300 suspicious vessels to the Lebanese authorities.

To date, 13 countries – Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Turkey – have contributed naval units to the force.

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