Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish Peace-Keeping Force.

15.

asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of recent events, he considers it prudent to retain an Irish contingent in the UN peace-keeping force in Lebanon.

While keeping developments under close review, the Government consider it right to maintain our contingent serving with the United Nations Interim Force in the Lebanon.

The Government are, however, naturally most concerned about the harassment to which elements of the Irish contingent have been subjected by the so-called de facto forces in Southern Lebanon, and about the underlying cause: the fact that the force has not been able to establish control over the whole area entrusted to it or fully to implement the mandate given to it by the Security Council. Along with the Secretary General and other troopcontributing countries, we have sought the assistance of the Government of Israel in influencing the de facto forces to co-operate with UNIFIL.

This concern was expressed by the Security Council when they renewed the mandate of UNIFIL for five months on 19 January last. The Security Council deplored the lack of co-operation particularly on Israel's part with UNIFIL's efforts to fully implement their mandate, including Israel's assistance to irregular armed groups in Southern Lebanon, and urged all member states which are in a position to do so to bring their influence to bear on those concerned so that UNIFIL could discharge their responsibilities fully and unhampered. I trust that this will meet with a response.

The Deputy will appreciate that no peace-keeping operation can be without risks and that the present one presents peculiar difficulties. The Government will of course continue in any way possible to assist the Secretary General of the United Nations, who is responsible for the operations of the force, to minimise these risks.

Have the Irish Government lodged any protest concerning the activities of the Israelis?

Yes. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has been in touch with his counterpart in Israel, Mr. Dayan, and there has been an exchange of views in relation to the de facto forces. Our request was to ask Israel to do everything possible to restrain these forces. The response has not been bad.

Is the Minister referring to the right-wing militia, the allies of Israel?