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Indonesian Peacekeeping Troops Depart for Lebanon


125 Indonesian troops have left for Lebanon to join a United Nations peacekeeping force. About 800 more Indonesian troops are expected to arrive in Beirut by the end of the month.

The Indonesian troops flew to Lebanon Wednesday to join peacekeepers from some 20 countries in the U.N.'s Interim Force in Lebanon.

Indonesia, a secular nation with the world's largest Muslim population, offered to send troops to Lebanon shortly after a ceasefire agreement was signed between Lebanon and Israel in August. That ended a month-long war between Israel and the armed group Hezbollah.

But the deployment of Indonesian troops was delayed numerous times due to logistical reasons.

Major Irawadi, the spokesman for the Indonesian troop contingent destined for Lebanon, says his soldiers are happy to go after the long wait.

"All of our personnel, of course, they are happy," he said. "From last month they are still waiting because there are three cancellations from the U.N., but finally, from today, and on the 24th, all of the members of the Indonesian contingent will go - hopefully on time."

Around 200 pieces of military equipment, including armored personnel carriers, ambulances and trucks, left Indonesia Saturday by ship bound for Lebanon.

The vessel, the S.S. Wilson, is an American-owned ship hired for the U.N. mission by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command.

Indonesian military spokesman Major Irawadi says now that the military equipment has left for Lebanon, and the first wave of troops has been sent, the rest of the more than 800 Indonesian soldiers should be in Lebanon by the end of November.

"The main body will depart on 24th, maybe on 25th all of Indonesian contingent will be in Beirut," he said.

Among the soldiers being sent to Lebanon Wednesday is First Lieutenant Agus Harimurti, the eldest son of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

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