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Annan Says Lebanon, Darfur Need More UN Troops


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says a possible U.N. stabilization force for Lebanon should be larger and have a different mandate than current troops in the region. Speaking in Brussels, Annan also urged the Sudanese government to accept a separate U.N. force for Darfur.

During a joint press conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said a bolstered U.N. force for Lebanon could stabilize the situation in southern Lebanon, where the Hezbollah militia is trading fire with Israel.

He has called for European and other governments to contribute troops to the force, which he says should be larger and better armed than the 2,000 U.N. soldiers currently in the region.

"The situation is very urgent, and it is imperative that the international community acts ... to end the fighting and killing that is going on, and acts to find some long-term stability in that region," Annan said.

Several European countries have expressed support for such a U.N. force, but the United States and Israel remain skeptical about the idea. Washington questions how more U.N. troops would be able to restrain Hezbollah. And some analysts suggest the force would hinder Israel's stated goal to break the militia group's control in southern Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah continues to fire rockets into northern Israel and Israeli bombs hit a Lebanese army base outside Beirut and destroyed a house near the border, killing 16 people. About 250 people have died during the past week of clashes, most of them in Lebanon.

Annan's talks in Brussels are also aimed at securing stability in another conflict-torn region: Darfur, in Sudan. The United Nations has been pressing the Sudanese government to accept a U.N. peacekeeping mission to take over for an underequipped African Union force.

Annan said he was still hopeful Sudanese authorities might eventually endorse a U.N. force.

"We are quite advanced with our planning and eventual deployment to Darfur," he said. "And we are also engaged in very serious discussions with the Sudanese authorities - asking them to cooperate with the deployment of the force."

U.N., European, Sudanese and U.S. officials are meeting in Brussels to discuss ways to finance the African Union force for a few more months before a hoped-for transition to a U.N. peacekeeping mission takes place. But Monday, Sudan's Foreign Minister Lam Akol again rejected the idea of U.N. troops in Darfur.