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Lebanon

Volume 450: debated on Friday 20 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in what capacity she expects UK forces to serve as part of a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Lebanon. (94302)

The UK provided HMS York to the UN-sponsored interim maritime task force in early September. This task force is due to be replaced by a follow-on force, under United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) command, on or around 15 October. We have also offered to provide support in other areas, including the use of our Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus, and provision of a naval logistician to assist the UN. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the UK pays a premium contribution to the costs of UN operations. This year our contribution is expected to be approximately £16 million.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) the UN, (b) the Government of Lebanon, (c) the Government of Israel and (d) Hezbollah on the subject of unexploded ordnance in Lebanon as a result of the recent conflict, with particular reference to cluster munitions which failed to explode; and what monitoring has been undertaken of the situation. (94407)

We have recently held official level discussions through our embassies in Beirut and Tel Aviv about unexploded ordnance with the Governments of Lebanon and Israel. We called on the Government of Israel to make a public statement about their use of cluster munitions in the recent conflict with Lebanon. We have not held any discussions with Hezbollah on the issue. We plan to discuss the issue of cluster munitions with the UN shortly.

We continue to be concerned about levels of unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions in south Lebanon. In response to the recent crisis in Lebanon the Department for International Development (DFID) has provided £205,000 to the British non-governmental organisation, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) for clearance of unexploded ordnance and has a commitment to provide a sum of £1 million to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) for similar tasking.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures are being taken by (a) the UK and (b) the rest of the EU to help the Lebanese armed forces achieve the capacity to effectively defend Lebanese sovereignty; and if she will make a statement. (94575)

Through its contribution to United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, (UNIFIL) the EU is supporting the Lebanese Government in extending their authority throughout the whole of Lebanese territory. EU member states comprise the bulk of troops deployed to UNIFIL acting under its new mandate. The UNIFIL mission is currently under French command. As a result of UNlFIL's efforts so far, the Lebanese army is now deployed in south Lebanon for the first time in 30 years.

The other main area of EU involvement is on managing points of entry, where Germany has taken on a forward role in border, port and airport security. Germany deployed a team of consultants based at the airport to assist the Lebanese with their aviation security shortly after the conflict ended. It has offered advice and equipment to improve management of the Lebanon/Syria border. Germany has also taken on the task of supporting the Government of Lebanon with their maritime security under UNIFIL. This operation took over on 15 October from an interim maritime task force comprised of a number of international partners (UK, France, Italy, Greece) which had been carrying out monitoring off Lebanon's shores under an Italian lead. The UK deployed HMS York as part of this arrangement. The EU is also collectively exploring the options for providing enhanced border security and security sector assistance for the wider Lebanese security forces.

The UK's contribution has been a commitment of £2.5 million for security sector assistance. There is currently a Ministry of Defence (MOD) minute before the house detailing UK proposals to supply the Lebanese with 50 vehicles. The MOD is also planning to provide counter-terrorism training and we are looking to identify the equipment and training needs of the security forces and co-ordinating donor responses. We have allocated £320,000 for counter-terrorism assistance in Lebanon, including training for border security, police capacity building and aviation security and assistance.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what response the UK Government have made to Iran's involvement in the conflict in the Lebanon. (95295)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave to the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Mr. Moore) on 11 October 2006, Official Report, columns 763-764W.