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UN Members Pledge Support for Lebanon Peacekeeping Force


A number of countries have offered to send troops or provide logistical and other assistance in U.N. peacekeeping operations in Lebanon. The discussions on the scope and makeup of an international peacekeeping force follows the adoption of a Security Council resolution aimed at ending the fighting in Lebanon between Israel and the Hezbollah terrorist group.

More than 20 country representatives met at the United Nations Thursday to discuss the scope and makeup of an international force that is to assist the Lebanese army keep the peace in southern Lebanon.

There were no definite numbers announced at the meeting, which delegates said was aimed at laying out UNIFIL's concept and the rules of engagement.

Deputy U.S. representative to the United Nations, Alejandro Wolff, said the United States is not planning to contribute troops to the peacekeeping mission, but will provide logistical and planning support. He stressed that Washington's chief concern is how quickly the additional international troops can be deployed.

"We underscored, specifically, the need for urgency, the need to respond to Resolution 1701 call on member states to enhance UNIFIL, and to do so as quickly as possible," said Alejandro Wolff.

The United Nations hopes to send 3,500 more troops to join 2,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops already in Lebanon, within 10 days. The mission there, known as UNIFIL, is eventually expected to include as many as 15,000 international troops, to help the 15,000 Lebanese soldiers who have already begun moving to southern Lebanon.

Britain offered substantial maritime and aviation support and Germany's ambassador the United Nations, Thomas Matussek, said his country is also prepared to pitch in.

"I was in a position to offer a rather substantive maritime component, which is so encompassing that it could patrol and secure the whole of the Lebanese coast to make sure that no weapons or related materials get into Lebanon," said Thomas Matussek.

He added that Germany is also ready to contribute troops to help patrol Lebanon's border with Syria.

French General Alain Pellegrini, who heads UNIFIL, told reporters he welcomes more troops.

"A new UNIFIL will be stronger, enhanced, with more people,"said Alain Pellegrini. "And above all, with new rules of engagement in order to enable UNIFIL to enforce the tasks given by the mandate."

He made clear that mandate does not include disarming Hezbollah, an issue he described as "a Lebanese problem."

His position was echoed by Wolff, who said UNIFIL's mission is to support the Lebanese government. He added that Lebanese troops are ultimately responsible for ensuring that there are no armed elements in the country, other than those the Lebanese government authorizes.