UN opens meeting on Lebanon troops
Deutsche Presse Agentur
Sunday August 20, 2006
New York- A United Nations conference opened Thursday for
governments to commit troops to the UN Interim Mission in Lebanon
(UNIFIL), with the aim of boosting its strength from 2,000 to 15,000
troops to monitor the southern Lebanese truce.
France took the first step by adding 200 troops to the 200
soldiers already serving in UNIFIL. The offer disappointed UN
officials, who had hoped that Paris would provide a vanguard of 3,500
troops to be deployed within 10 days to strengthen UNIFIL.
The conference at UN headquarters was attended by 49 governments,
including half of the European Union's member nations.
The Beirut government on Thursday began deploying the first of a
planned 15,000 Lebanese soldiers to the south.
"The meeting today is a critical step on the path towards a stable
and lasting peace," Deputy Secretary-General Mark Mallock Brown told
the conference. "Realizing this hope requires not just boldness and
visions from the parties to the conflict. It needs the tangible
commitment and support of the international community, as well."
Mallock Brown said that he would meet the need of governments
contributing troops to UNIFIL to know the rules of engagement and
concept of operations in southern Lebanon. Discussion about those
issues may also continue next week, as governments would step forward
with the number of troops they would commit to the UN force.
"Our firm hope and intention remains to deploy an advance party of
at least 3,500 troops to augment the existing 2,000-strong UNIFIL
force within the next 10 days, and then to build up to the 15,000
authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1701," he said.
Resolution 1701 halted the fighting Monday in Lebanon between
Israeli Defence Forces and the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah. It
authorized up to 15,000 UNIFIL troops to work alongside 15,000
Lebanese troops to maintain the ceasefire.
UN officials said they expected more meetings next week to
complete the troop contributions to UNIFIL. The main issues of rules
of engagement and concept of operations have to be agreed by
governments before they would provide troops.
The troops in the existing UNIFIL mission are from China (187),
France (209), Ghana (648), India (673), Ireland (5), Italy (53),
Poland (214) and Ukraine (1).
Besides adding 200 troops to UNIFIL, Paris said it would place the
1,700 soldiers it actually maintains in Lebanon to evacuate civilians
from combat areas as support forces for the UN.
The EU nations attending the conference were Germany, Belgium,
France, Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Spain,
Sweden and the Czech Republic. Countries that traditionally send
troops to UN peacekeeping operations also attended, including India,
Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey and many African nations.
© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agentur