The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon UNIFIL

Linked with Samir Makdisi – Lebanon.

UNIFIL says it boosts Lebanon’s economy – Reuters, Oct. 5, 2006: U.N. peacekeepers went on a public relations campaign in Lebanon on Thursday, explaining in a statement how the presence of their beefed-up force would benefit the struggling Lebanese economy.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is monitoring a truce that ended a war between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas on Aug. 14. The force, along with Lebanese army troops, is now in control of virtually all of south Lebanon.

The U.N. Security Council authorised increasing the number of UNIFIL peacekeepers from 2,000 before the war to up to 15,000 and gave it robust rules of engagement to maintain the peace.

UNIFIL has not faced any problems so far in mainly Shi’ite Muslim south Lebanon, Hizbollah’s heartland, and it seemed that it wanted to stress its positive impact on Lebanon beyond keeping the guns silent. A UNIFIL statement said the increase in the number of international staff “will definitely influence for the better the financial market in Lebanon. “The soldiers spend a lot of money here: they visit local attractions, eat out, travel and this, in the end, helps to stimulate the economy,” UNIFIL’s acting chief administrative officer Jean-Pierre Ducharme said.

“In addition, UNIFIL employees have many visitors who will have a significant impact on tourism and this is priceless, it improves the reputation of the country,” he said. The statement said the number of local staff, now at 300, should double in the coming year. Over the last three years, UNIFIL spent some 60 percent of its budget on procuring from local companies and last year alone approximately $40 million went back to the Lebanese economy.

“Obviously, this number will increase, but it gives a good indication on how UNIFIL provides something positive for the Lebanese market,” Ducharme said. (Read on Today Reuters).

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