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Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas of Spain assumed the command of The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from Maj. Gen. Claudio Graziano of Italy.

In a farewell speech during a ceremony at UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura, Graziano looked back at his three years in command of UNIFIL, pointing to major improvements in the situation on the ground in south Lebanon.

The ceremony was attended by several Lebanese and foreign officials including Defense Minister Elias Murr, Spanish Defense Minister Carmen Chacon Piqueras, Italian Deputy Defense Minister Giuseppe Cossiga, Lebanese Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, Italian and Spanish Chiefs of Defense, General Camporini and General Rodriguez Fernandez, Members of Lebanese Parliament, senior officers of the Lebanese Armed Forces and many others. Asarta, in his first speech recalled his previous stint with UNIFIL as Sector East Commander from December 2008 to April 2009.

“We are here to assist the parties to maintain the cessation of hostilities and to move forward towards a permanent ceasefire,” said Asarta. He added: “In this spirit, I shall do my very best to ensure the successful implementation of our mandate in southern Lebanon.”

Following his meeting with Spanish Defense Minister Carmen Chacon Piqueras on Thursday, President Michel Suleiman commended the efforts made by Spain on all levels, especially its participation in UNIFIL and its leadership of the forces in 2010.

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