US earmarks $10 million for Lebanese army
The United States said it intended to disburse $10 million to Lebanon's army to give it the means to deploy to the southern border, which is controlled by the Hezbollah militia fighting Israel.
The State Department also revved up efforts to cobble together an international force for the war zone as a top US envoy shuttled from Brussels to Paris and Ankara to gauge the willingness of potential participants.
The US commitment to the Lebanese army came on Friday as crisis talks in Washington between US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair saw both leaders express a desire to quickly send troops into the Lebanese war zone.
"We intend to provide $10 million to the Lebanese army," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.
The aid is meant to help Lebanon modernize its force by purchasing spare parts for armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles needed or armed patrols. Casey said some money would also go for communications equipment.
Congress must still approve the assistance.
World powers are due to meet at the United Nations on Monday to discuss the international troop commitment and Casey said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- who will shuttle back to Israel today -- telephoned UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the subject on Friday.
Another top US official was in Brussels on Thursday negotiating the initial details on a multinational team. Washington has already said it would not be sending troops to Lebanon and NATO officials have also said their forces were already stretched thin.
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