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Spanish king visits troops in Lebanon after peacekeeper's death

AFP , Wednesday 8 Apr 2015
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Spain's King Felipe VI on Wednesday visited Spanish troops stationed in southern Lebanon, where Israeli artillery killed a Spanish peacekeeper in January.

The king paid tribute to Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo and the 12 other Spanish serviceman killed over the years in Lebanon on peacekeeping duty during his visit to Spanish soldiers deployed with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the Marjayoun.

"I want... to pay a heartfelt tribute to all Spanish soldiers who have given their lives to fulfil their duty during missions, especially Corporal Francisco Javier Soria and the others who have died for this same mission," he said.

"They will remain in our memories forever. I am proud of you, of what you are, of what you do," added Felipe, who is on his first visit to Lebanon since he took the throne in June 2014.

"Have no doubt, thanks to your dedication, your work, your discipline and your love of service, you contribute to make Spain and the world more secure and stronger," the king added.

Israeli security sources acknowledged on Tuesday that it was Israeli fire that killed Soria Toledo, 36, on January 28.

They said the firing followed an attack on Israeli forces by the Shiite militia Hezbollah.

Israel occupied parts of Lebanon for 22 years until 2000 and the two countries are still technically at war.

The 10,000-strong UN force now monitoring the border includes some 600 Spanish soldiers and troops from 35 other nations.

The king met with Lebanon's Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Tuesday during the first day of his visit to the country as well as with representatives of the Spanish community in Beirut.

Lebanon "has suffered a lot in its recent history and Spain wishes it a future of peace and harmony", Felipe said.

"I hope that the spirit of harmony of Lebanese people willing to handle the rich and sometimes difficult mosaic of differences that makes up this country will always prevail."

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