Putrajaya monitoring safety of Malaysian peacekeepers in Lebanon

Hishamuddin-HussienPORT DICKSON: Malaysia will continue monitoring developments in Lebanon after the country’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his sudden resignation during his visit to Riyadh early this month.

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, however, said no worrying incidents involving Malaysians in Lebanon had been reported so far.

“Yes, I’m giving extra attention to what is happening in Lebanon over that in Yemen and Qatar because our Malbatt 850-5 (Malaysian Battalion peacekeeping team) members are there (in Lebanon).”

He was speaking to reporters after attending the army’s Deepavali celebration and the launch of the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) special call and data package here today.

Also present were ATM chief General Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor, army chief General Zulkiple Kassim and Celcom Axiata Bhd CEO Michael Kuehner.

Hishammuddin said soon after learning about Hariri’s resignation, Raja Mohamed Affandi had contacted his Lebanese counterpart to obtain details about the current situation in the country.

A total of 850 military personnel, including 30 from the Brunei Royal Armed Forces and one defence ministry employee, are currently in Lebanon under the United Nations Interim Team mission.

The Saudi Arabian government, however, was reported to have asked its citizens in Lebanon to leave the country immediately.

On Nov 4, Hariri announced his resignation by reading a statement on live television from Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

He said he was stepping down because the rising Iranian influence in his country had made him fearful that he would suffer the same fate as his father, Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005.

The sudden announcement fuelled major concern that Lebanon might face the prospect of a new conflict.