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Indonesia Plans To Send Peacekeepers to Lebanon

The Indonesian government has said it is planning to send up to one thousand troops to Lebanon this month as part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission there. Israel had objected to the deployment of Indonesian troops because Israel and Indonesia do not have diplomatic ties.

The Indonesian government says it plans to deploy a 12-member advance party to the U.N. operation in Lebanon on September 20 and about 1,000 soldiers by the end of the month.

Presidential foreign policy adviser Dino Pati Djalal says "Indonesia has always wanted to enhance our engagement in the process of leading to peace in the Middle East. They are training every day now. They are ready for deployment. Their morale is very high, and I'm confident they will do a good job in Lebanon maintaining the peace."

Djalal told VOA Saturday the force will consist of one battalion and an engineering unit, as well as logistics specialists to assist at the U.N. mission's headquarters.

Djalal also said the United Nations sent a formal invitation Friday asking Indonesia to participate in the peacekeeping operation in Lebanon.

Israel had previously rejected an offer by Indonesia to send troops, insisting peacekeepers should come only from countries with diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

But, Djalal says "the fact that the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations has written us, in a special letter of invitation, reflects on the issue of Israel's comment about Indonesia's participation earlier. In other words, there's now no impediment or objection to our participation."

Israel has not commented on the Indonesian announcement.

Though Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, does not recognize Israel, the two countries do have contact. The then-Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, visited the country in 1992, and Israel sent humanitarian aid after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which devastated parts of Indonesia.

The U.N. has urged other Muslim nations to contribute to the peacekeeping effort in Lebanon.

Malaysia and Bangladesh have also offered troops for the mission but neither country formally recognizes Israel. The U.N. has not yet decided whether to accept the offers.

The U.N. hopes to assemble a force of 15,000 troops to maintain a ceasefire between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah following a month of hostilities.