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French blow to expanded UN peacekeeper force

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French blow to expanded UN peacekeeper force


UN peacekeepers in Lebanon should be boosted by a further 3,500 troops within the next fortnight, despite news that France intends to send far fewer soldiers than initially expected. French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has complained the mandate is not clear enough, particularly over how Hizbollah is to be disarmed. Paris will send 200 troops although a further 1,700 in the region will be available to the United Nations but not under UN control.

Disappointing news, said UN second-in-command Mark Malloch Brown: “We’d hoped, and we make no secret of it, that there would be a stronger French contribution but I think we’re happy with what they’ve given us. Others have come forward and we’re pretty convinced we’ve got the elements here of a strong force which is very multilateral in character but well able to do the task it will be given.”

Several countries have offered troops, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Nepal. Belgium and Italy also look likely to contribute. The US and Britain have offered logistical support. British ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said: “Everybody is emphasising the need to respond urgently to what is being asked. There have been some quite promising responses. The key crucially will be that what is being offered in that room is made available as soon as possible.”

The number of UN peacekeepers in place should eventually be increased to 15,000 but it is thought extremely important that the first wave is sent as soon as possible to make sure the truce holds.

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