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UN Envoy: Southern Lebanon Fragile for Several Months


A United Nations envoy says the situation in southern Lebanon will remain fragile for two or three months.

Terje Roed-Larsen says it could take international troops and the Lebanese army that long to fill the security vacuum in the region following the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Finland says European Union foreign ministers will hold emergency talks Friday to discuss Europe's contribution to the peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.

Italy says it will contribute up to three thousand troops to the U.N. force. But its foreign minister Massimo D'Alema, in an interview with Italy's La Repubblica newspaper says Italy cannot send troops while Israel "continues to fire."

In other news, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that Israel will lift its blockade of Lebanon once international peacekeepers are deployed at Beirut's international airport and at Lebanon's frontier with Syria.

But Syria's President says stationing international troops along the border would be a hostile act.

President Bashar al-Assad said, in an interview with Dubai Television, that having international troops on Lebanon's side of the border would amount to a withdrawal of Lebanese sovereignty.

This is the first time that Israel has called for international troops at Beirut Airport.

The U.N. Security Council ceasefire resolution calls for the current U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon to be strengthened by up to 15,000 additional troops.

Greece said Tuesday it will contribute naval forces, but not ground troops.

France was at first expected to lead the international peacekeepers, but Paris is only committing a few hundred troops.

Italy said on Monday it is willing to command the force.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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