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Annan Confident About Getting Troops for Lebanon


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is confident a 15,000 member peacekeeping force will deploy soon in Lebanon to oversee the cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Mr. Annan is meeting Friday in Brussels with European Union foreign ministers. He said ahead of that meeting that he feels certain he will get the required number of troops.

France's President Jacques Chirac said Friday that the peacekeeping force does not need 15,000 troops. He called that number excessive.

On Thursday, France boosted its troop commitment to 2,000. A contingent of about 150 French troops reached southern Lebanon at the coastal town of Naqura Friday.

Italy has offered up to 3,000 troops. Several other European countries, including Poland and Spain, are expected to make a troop commitment.

Still at issue is who will command the troops. France says it wants to take the lead but Italy does too. In newspaper interviews Friday, Italian officials proposed a shared command.

In Paris, Mr. Chirac called Israel's air and sea blockade of Lebanon unjustified.

Israel has said it will maintain the blockade until international troops are patrolling Lebanon's borders.

The U.N. Security Council resolution on ending the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah calls for a force of up to 15,000 international troops in southern Lebanon. They will combine with the same number of Lebanese army soldiers.

The U.S. State Department has condemned Syria's suggestion that the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers along its border with Lebanon would be a hostile act.

Washington accuses Syria of allowing its territory to be used for the shipment of Iranian weaponry to Hezbollah.

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