President Sleiman visits UNIFIL, meets injured French soldiers
Naqoura, Lebanon – Acting Force Commander Brigadier-General Santi Bonfanti today received Lebanese President Michel Sleiman at the headquarters of the UNIFIL Force Commander Reserve at Deir Kifa in southern Lebanon.
President Sleiman, accompanied by Defence Minister Fayez Ghosn and Lebanese Armed Forces Commander General Jean Kahwagi, was welcomed at the UNIFIL French base by the Commanding Officer of the Force Commander Reserve Colonel Cedric du Gardin in the presence of UNIFIL Chief of Staff Brigadier-General Olivier Pougin de la Maisonneuve and the French Ambassador to Lebanon Denis Pietton. The President was presented with a UNIFIL Honour Guard from the French contingent.
The President extended his greetings and holiday wishes to UNIFIL peacekeepers. He met the five French peacekeepers who were injured in an explosive attack on their vehicle in the Tyr area on 09 December and checked on their welfare.
Brigadier-General Bonfanti and top UNIFIL officials expressed gratitude to the President and his delegation for the symbolic gesture.
"The visit brings a message of support and solidarity for UNIFIL and the mission we are carrying out," Brigadier-General Bonfanti said. "This recognition, and the widespread support we received from across the Lebanese political spectrum after the attack on our peacekeepers, will only strengthen our resolve to carry out our mandated tasks."
The Acting Force Commander stressed that those who attacked UNIFIL three times in recent months, in December in
Tyre area and in May and July near the city of Saida, as well as those who have fired rockets from southern Lebanon in recent weeks aim to undermine not only UNIFIL's mission but also the hard-won stability that the area has witnessed by the combined efforts of UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces under UN Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).
France is one of the leading troop contributing countries to the peacekeeping mission since UNIFIL was first established in 1978. There are currently more than 1,300 French troops serving with UNIFIL, mainly in the Force Commander Reserve.