UNIFIL armoured vehicles pass through a Lebanese Armed Forces checkpoint near Ghanduriya. Photo: UNIFIL

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Major General Paolo Serra of Italy as the new head of the United Nations mission responsible for helping foster stability in southern Lebanon.

As Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Major General Serra will be at the helm of what is considered to be one of the most dangerous peacekeeping operations in the world.

He succeeds Major General Alberto Asarta Cuevas of Spain, whose tour of duty is slated to end on 28 January, after three years of service. The Secretary-General expressed his gratitude to Major General Asarta Cuevas for his ?excellentUNIFIL currently has around 12,100 military personnel from 35 countries and about 1,000 national and international civilian staff members. service and leadership.?

During his visit to the mission?s headquarters in Naqoura over a week ago, Mr. Ban emphasized the unique risk faced by UNIFIL, saying that while peacekeeping was always dangerous, it was ?especially deadly in Lebanon.?

The mission has lost 293 personnel since it began in 1978. And just last month, five French peacekeepers were wounded in a roadside bomb near the port city of Tyre ? the third such attack in 2011.

Major General Serra brings with him wide-ranging experience in commanding troops in multinational peace operations, including in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Mozambique.

UNIFIL currently has around 12,100 military personnel from 35 countries and about 1,000 national and international civilian staff members.

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