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France Says 2,000 Troops to Arrive in Lebanon in Three Weeks


France says that all of its 2,000 troops committed to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon will be in place within three weeks.

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told the U.S.-based newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, that additional peacekeepers will join troops already in the war-torn country. A convoy of French military vehicles and equipment arrived in Beirut early Saturday.

France will command the international force until February 2007. Then Italy will take command. Italy has pledged 3,000 soldiers.

Also, media reports have quoted a German official as saying sailors from German vessels must be able to board and search suspicious ships approaching Lebanon's coast.

Germany has offered naval support for the arms embargo stipulated by the the U.N. ceasefire resolution.

Meanwhile, a Lebanese official says his country will urge Secretary-General Kofi Annan to persuade Israel to lift its air and sea blockade. Mr. Annan arrives in Beirut on Monday.

Israel says it will only lift its blockade once international troops are deployed along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

But Syria says it considers stationing international troops along its border a "hostile" act.

In other news, Hezbollah says it was surprised by Israel's response to its capture of two Israeli soldiers in July

Naim Qassem, the group's deputy leader, said the group expected Israel to bomb Lebanon for a few days only.

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

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