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Italy Says It Will Send Troops to Lebanon


Italy's prime minister says his country is willing to assume leadership of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon and will provide about 2,000 troops to the effort.

The offer by Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi is being considered by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who says he will make a final decision on who will lead the force in the next few days.

Italy's foreign minister told a leading Italian newspaper Tuesday that the Italian offer is conditional and depends on Israel not violating the U.N.-mediated ceasefire.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton says the international community needs to focus on the mission.

"We should keep our eye focused on the objective, which is that the combined efforts of the government of Lebanon and UNIFIL in southern Lebanon should result in the government of Israel being able to withdraw," he said.

U.N. officials say their goal has been to have about 3,500 troops on the ground in Lebanon by the first week in September. The force is expected to grow to 15,000 troops.

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