UN mission conducts maritime drill off Lebanons southern coast

21 January 2008United Nations peacekeepers have carried out maritime exercises off the coast of southern Lebanon involving the amphibious landing of military personnel and equipment. The three-day drill – conducted by the Maritime Task Force of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in cooperation with the Lebanese Navy and with the participation of French and Italian naval units – took place near the southern city of Naqoura.“The aim of this exercise is to improve cooperation and establish coordination mechanisms between the different naval and land forces involved,” said UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Claudio Graziano.“At the same time, it is directed at the specific task of rotating troops and equipments, as well as to perform dedicated maintenance activities on deployed assets,” he added. Lebanese naval units provided logistical assistance and security for the exercise, which also included the participation of two specialized ships: the “Siroco” from the French navy and the “San Giorgio” from the Italian navy. Almost two weeks ago, two UNIFIL peacekeepers were injured after the vehicle they were travelling in was hit by a blast in southern Lebanon.The Mission has launched an official investigation and is working in close cooperation with the Lebanese authorities.