In Lebanon, the Iranian and Saudi Arabian battalions of the United Nations Peacekeeping forces (UNIFIL) continued to withdraw on Thursday (22 March).
GV & LV ship tied up in Beirut harbour (TWO SHOTS)
LV PAN & TV Iranian U.N. vehicles on ship's deck (TWO SHOTS)
CU Iranian soldier's shoulder flash
LV Iranian soldiers boarding ship, waving goodbye, and lining decks (TWO SHOTS)
SV & CU & TV Saudi U.N. troops boarding vehicles (THREE SHOTS)
TV PAN Saudi soldiers wave from truck as they move off with their equipment
SV woman dancing and throwing rice
SV Lebanese flag on truck bringing Lebanese soldiers into Beirut (TWO SHOTS)
SV PAN tower block to Lebanese soldiers getting off (TWO SHOTS)
CU Saudi officer (right) shakes hand with Lebanese commanding officer, and inviting him to take coffee (TWO SHOTS)
LV civilians applaud as cars drive past
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Background: In Lebanon, the Iranian and Saudi Arabian battalions of the United Nations Peacekeeping forces (UNIFIL) continued to withdraw on Thursday (22 March). Their withdrawal has raised fears of renewed fighting both in the volatile region and in Beirut. They have been replaced by a Dutch contingent in Southern Lebanon government troops in Beirut.
SYNOPSIS: Beirut Harbour, once the busiest port in the Middle East, has been at a virtual standstill since last July. On Thursday (22 March), contingents of the UNIFIL forces, this one Iranian, prepared to return home. The Iranians began their withdrawal in January.
Most of these soldiers have not been home since the Islamic Revolution put the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiny into power and the Shah into exile. They were sent by the Shah's now departed government to participate in the U.N.'s peace-keeping mandate in southern Lebanon. The Iranian troops serving on the Syrian Golan Heights began their withdrawal following a decision taken by Iran's new government. Under a U.N. Security Council resolution, UNIFIL's mandate in southern Lebanon is extended until May.
Saudi Arabia announced their plans for troop withdrawal earlier in the month, saying it was taking place because of the border conflict between North and South Yemen. The seven hundred Saudi troops had mainly been deployed in Christian districts of Beirut. They replaced the Syrians, whose peace-keeping role was extremely unpopular with the Lebanese.
Lebanese leaders were alarmed that the Saudi withdrawal would create new problems in sensitive areas in Beirut. The Saudi Arabians arrived last October as part of a ceasefire plan to end two weeks of heavy clashes. They were received and popular with the people.
Members of the Lebanese army took up the positions left vacant by the Saudis. This is part of a concerted effort by the Lebanese government to rebuild and involve their own troops in Beirut.
Sporadic sniper fire and bomb attacks continue in Beirut. One man was killed and another wounded in the Beirut Port area on Wednesday (22 March). The following day, port workers went on strike to protest against the attack. The port Labour unions said the army guaranteed the safety of its members. With the Saudis leaving, the government is afraid of losing the buffer between Syrian forces and Christian militia groups in Beirut.