Italy, France forms core of UN force in Lebanon
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon will swell from its current 1,990-strong force to a maximum 15,000 global troops.india Updated: Aug 29, 2006 10:43 IST
Italy and France will provide the core of Europe's contribution to the UN force in Lebanon, after Rome on Mondayconfirmed the deployment of up to 2,500 troops there.
Under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, unanimously adopted earlier this month, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is to swell from its current 1,990-strong force to a maximum 15,000 international troops.
Here is a provisional breakdown of countries prepared to contribute troops:
FRANCE: After much hesitation, French President Jacques Chirac pledged to provide an overall 2,000 soldiers on the eve of the EU meeting in Brussels.
France will continue leading the force until February 2007, when Italy will take over the command.
ITALY: Rome on Monday gave the green light for 2,500 soldiers to join UNIFIL, the biggest commitment so far to the peacekeeping force.
SPAIN: Spain's offer is likely to make a third pillar in the force. EU sources at the meeting said Madrid was ready to commit up to 1,200 troops, although that number remains to be confirmed. Spanish radio reported that Spain would send 950 soldiers and up to 40 armoured vehicles.
POLAND: Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga announced that Poland would boost the number of its troops in the UN force in Lebanon by 300 to a total of around 500.
BELGIUM: Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said Friday that Belgium would provide 302 troops and could eventually lift the number to nearly 400.
GERMANY: On account of its Nazi past, Berlin has ruled out sending any ground forces in order to avoid the possibility of clashes with Israelis. However, a force of 1,000, mostly sailors, could be made available to the UN mission along with several surveillance warships.
FINLAND: Finland, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, pledged up to 250 soldiers.
GREECE: Athens is to provide a frigate, helicopter and special forces.
Copenhagen has proposed sending three warships and Oslo could provide four.
Finland, Sweden and Norway -- could send a "Northern battalion" of more than 500 soldiers.
Portugal has said it is willing to contribute troops, without specifying how many.
British Europe Minister Geoff Hoon said Friday that he doubted Britain would be able to send ground troops for a UN mission in Lebanon, although some specialised forces could be made available.
Dacca has said it could offer 1,500 troops but is waiting for a clarified UN mandate.
Jakarta is prepared to commit 1,000 troops and police officers.
Malaysia has offered between 850 and 1,000 troops which form a complete mechanised battalion.
Moscow is preparing a 2,000-strong peacekeeping brigade in Samara in Russia's Volga region and some of these troops could be sent to Lebanon, the Kommersant daily reported.
Nepal has offered at least a battalion.
Thailand has said it would consider "positively" a UN request for troops, without giving a number.
Ankara said Monday it had decided to send troops to join the expanded UNIFIL, without saying how many. Parliament will meet soon to endorse the dispatch, it said.
Morocco has agreed to take part, according to the Lebanese prime minister's office.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said he was undecided whether to supply troops, although any offer would be a "very small, niche commitment".
India is considering withdrawing its existing peacekeepers from southern Lebanon, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee was quoted as saying.
The United States, Israel's closest ally, is expected to provide logistics support.
UNIFIL, under its original mandate, has been operating in southern Lebanon for 28 years. That rolling mandate was again extended for one month by a UN Security Council vote on July 31. It currently counts troops from China, France, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy, Poland and Ukraine, under French command.
Under Resolution 1701, the expanded force is to support the Lebanese army as it takes up positions in southern Lebanon, formerly a Hezbollah-controlled zone, and help in humanitarian work.
The resolution says UNIFIL will "take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilised for hostile activities of any kind."
First Published: Aug 29, 2006 04:12 IST