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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


GA/SM/53
5 August 1998



ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT PAYS TRIBUTE TO COMMITMENT, COURAGE, PROFESSIONALISM

OF UNIFIL MEMBERS DURING VISIT TO FORCE'S HEADQUARTERS


Following are remarks made by the President of the General Assembly,
Hennadiy Udovenko (Ukraine), during his visit to the headquarters of the
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in Naqoura, Lebanon,
today:


I am very pleased to have this opportunity to visit the United Nations
Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and meet personally with the brave and
dedicated men and women who are playing such a vital role in helping to
bring stability to a very volatile area.

I am especially gratified that my visit comes only days after the
Security Council decided to extend the present mandate of UNIFIL for a
further period of six months. Although UNIFIL has been prevented from
carrying out its mandate under resolution 425 (1978), the decision to
extend its mandate is another strong reaffirmation of the fact that the
Force continues to contribute in a very real and meaningful way to
stability and to the protection of the civilian population.

UNIFIL's involvement in the area has now spanned 20 years -- two decades
of noble work in trying to limit the conflict and shield the inhabitants of
the area from the worst effects of the violence. Doing your utmost to
prevent the area of operation from being used for hostile activities and to
defuse situations that could escalate out of control, you provide a vivid
example of United Nations peacekeeping at its best.

No less important are your efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the
civilian population. From medical care to harvest patrols, from casualty
evacuation to distribution of educational material and equipment to poorer
schools, you have extended a helping hand to those who desperately needed
support and assistance.

We should not forget, however, that those two decades have been also
marked by peril and tragedy. In his latest report to the Security Council,
the Secretary-General cited chilling statistics: since the establishment
of UNIFIL, 76 of its members have been killed and over 300 wounded by
firing, or by mine or bomb explosions. I am deeply troubled by the high
level of

casualties suffered by UNIFIL and I would like to take this opportunity to
pay tribute to all those who sacrificed their lives while serving in the
Force.
Today's visit here is certain to become one of the most memorable
moments of my diplomatic and political career. Far from the somewhat
rarefied atmosphere of Headquarters conference rooms, it offered a sobering
look at the real-life conditions where UNIFIL is performing its difficult
and dangerous task.

Once again, I would like to pay tribute to the commitment, courage and
professionalism of UNIFIL members whose selfless work, under the leadership
of Major General Jioji Konouse Konrote, deserves wide recognition and deep


gratitude of all those who cherish the ideals of justice and peace.




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