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Indonesian soldiers off to Lebanon in late September

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Tuesday September 12, 2006

Jakarta- The first group of Indonesian soldiers are to leave for Lebanon by the end of the month to join a United Nations peacekeeping force, a military official said Tuesday. "The troops will depart on September 28 for Lebanon to conduct their peacekeeping mission," the state-run Antara news agency quoted Rear Admiral Sunarto Sjoekronoputra, spokesman of the Indonesian Armed Forces, as saying.

Indonesia pledged around 1,000 soldiers to safeguard a ceasefire agreed upon last month between Israel and Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon. Its deployment will consist of combat units, an engineering unit and logistics specialists.

The United Nations hopes to deploy a force as large as 15,000 soldiers, mainly from European nations but also countries with Muslim-majority populations, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh.

Government officials previously said the Indonesian contingent would be sent in three stages for a six-month to one-year assignment.

The Indonesian soldiers have undergone additional training for the mission, including landmine awareness, simulated combat, rules of engagement and code of conduct, and tactical vehicle combat.

Israel had previously protested Indonesia's offer to send troops, insisting that peacekeepers should only come from countries that have diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv. Israel later relented, given that Indonesia has participated in previous UN peacekeeping missions to the Middle East.

Although Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, does not recognize Israel, the two countries do have business and trade contacts.

Israel also sent humanitarian aid after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which devastated parts of Indonesia's Sumatra island.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur