Hezbollah has agreed to abide by a ceasefire that ended its 34-day war with Israel, but has resolutely refused to lay down its arms until it is satisfied that Israel has ended its occupation of Lebanese territory.

"The UN interim force in Lebanon is here to protect the Lebanese and Lebanon's sovereignty, and we want its mandate limited to that," Nabil Qaouk, the group's chief in southern Lebanon, said on Saturday.

Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, said this week that his forces are present in the whole of southern Lebanon and that nobody can prevent them from being present on Lebanese territory, which he said is their “home”.

On Thursday, General Alain Pellegrini, said that if the Lebanese army fails to disarm Hezbollah then UN interim forces would act on its own if necessary.

"If the Lebanese army fails to act, we must assume our responsibilities as a UN force," he said. "Someone will have to intervene, with all the consequences that this might have for the Lebanese authorities."

Resolution 1701 does not spell out how south Lebanon should be freed of illicit arms, but says UN Forces should "assist the Lebanese armed forces in taking steps towards" that end.

It also builds on the foundations of Resolution 1559, adopted in late 2004, and 1655, adopted in January.