Italian general takes over command of UNIFIL

Major-General Claudio Graziano of Italy on Friday formally took over command of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon at a ceremony held in the southern part of the country. Graziano, who was selected by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month, succeeds Major-General Alain Pellegrini of France who has led the UN force, known as UNIFIL, since Feb. 13, 2004 and headed the operation during last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah. "I leave with the conviction that we have together laid new foundations for a solid and, I hope, lasting stability," Pellegrini said at the ceremony held at UNIFIL headquarters in the southern Lebanese coastal town of Naqoura. Graziano, who arrived in Lebanon Monday, is an infantry officer trained in mountain warfare and airborne operations and has served in Mozambique and Afghanistan. He has been deputy chief of staff for operations at Italy's Joint Operations Headquarters since March 2006. He will head the Lebanon operation for the coming year.