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In Murky UNIFIL, 20 Minutes in Israel Called "Quick," Nepal Mislabeled Truck

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 8 -- As the UN murkily meanders into its Syria observer deployment, it provides what appears to be spin about its UNIFIL mission next door in Lebanon.

  On May 7 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's returned lead spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: The Government of Lebanon, has complained to UNIFIL about a Spanish officer of the UNIFIL contingent rep, crossing barbed wire and meeting they say with Israeli forces for 20 minutes, they say it violates their sovereignty. Did it actually take place? Is it a violation of the SOFA or, or whatever the understanding is between and, and what’s the explanation?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Let me find out about that particular topic, because I haven't heard about that. Let me check on that for you.

  Later in the day, Nesirky's office emailed and inserted into its transcript:

Subject: Your question on UNIFIL
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Mon, May 7, 2012 at 1:16 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Regarding your question at today's noon briefing, we have the following information from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL):

Yesterday a UNIFIL technical team was carrying out measurements on the ground to ascertain the exact location of the work carried out by the IDF in the general area of Kafr Kila.

In carrying out its work, the technical team was accompanied and assisted by UNIFIL Spanish troops. In the process, one of the peacekeepers inadvertently crossed the Technical Fence and quickly came back, as soon as he realized it.

This issue has been addressed at the tactical and operational level between the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL.

  But is 20 minutes "quickly"? It's reported that

"the Spanish officer crossed the Fatima Gate in southern Lebanon, facing the Israeli town of Metulla, held talks with Israeli troops for 20 minutes and then returned back to the Lebanese territories. A Lebanese army source [said] that the incident is an 'unjustified violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty. We demanded the UNIFIL’s Command to take strict punitive measures against the (Spanish) officer as he violated the agreement signed with the peacekeeping mission, which prevents any of its members from crossing into Israel.'"

  So which is it? Actually, the Spanish exodus from Lebanon will, relatedly or not, be more extensive:

"Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes stressed on Tuesday his country’s commitment to reduce by 20 percent the number of Spanish troops in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. He told Spanish state television that the rest of the Spanish troops will completely withdraw from the international force in 2013."

Meanwhile, Inner City Press also on May 7 asked, about Nepal:

Inner City Press: In Nepal, there is a report in Republica, a paper there, that a police officer was killed by a UN vehicle; this was, it was published on Friday and I just wonder, is that the case, and more than that, what did the UN, given that it has immunity or legal immunity, what does it do in circumstances such as this?

Spokesperson Nesirky: In Nepal, right. I don’t have anything on that, Matthew. I’ll check.

  The next day the UN replied:

Subject: Your question on a vehicular accident in Nepal
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, May 8, 2012 at 10:56 AM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Regarding your question about a fatality and reports of the involvement of a UN vehicle in Nepal, we have the following information:

A lorry, carrying two Nepal Army Mine Protected Vehicles, intended for use by the United Nations, lost one cargo vehicle, which accidentally killed a Nepalese policeman. The local police investigated the accident and cited a brake failure as the cause of the accident.

These vehicles are white in color and marked with black UN letters on the side, hence the initial confusion.

  Okay. Next question: how can the UN keep dodging on having introduced cholera into Haiti? Watch this site.

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