UN peacekeepers deployed in Lebanon are unlikely to be able to disarm Hizbullah, as required under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has said, a news agency has reported.
"Under the UN mandate, one of the main functions of the peacekeepers is to disarm Hizbullah," Ivanov was quoted as saying by the state-run news agency RIA-Novosti on Friday. "I strongly doubt that the UN will fulfil this task."
Ivanov said that concern over this aspect of the peacekeepers' mission was one of the reasons Moscow decided to send a peacekeeping contingent to Lebanon under an accord reached separately with the Lebanese government, instead of under the UN mandate, RIA-Novosti reported.
Ivanov said the 308 troops, who have been assigned to repairing eight bridges bombed by the Israelis, would return in about six weeks, RIA-Novosti reported.
UN Security Council Resolution 1701 requires the Shiite group Hizbullah, which fought a 34-day war against Israel in July-August, to disarm.
Peacekeepers are instructed to ensure the south Lebanon border area with Israel is "free of any armed personnel and weapons other than those of the Lebanese armed forces and UNIFIL (peacekeepers)."
Hizbullah guerrillas have kept a low profile since the resolution, but refused to disarm.