The small force of UN peacekeepers in Lebanon should receive a boost of some 3,500 troops within two weeks but Israel has voiced concern over some of the contributing countries. Italy has become the latest European nation to commit to sending soldiers, possibly up to 3,000, making it one of the biggest contributors.
Prime Minister Romano Prodi said he is happy with the rules of engagement. “The Lebanese Prime Minister has given me ample reassurance on both a clear UN mandate and the acceptance by Hizbollah of Resolution 1701 and of the Unifil mission,” he said.
France, however, does not believe the mandate is clear enough. Defence Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie has dismissed suggestions that Paris has let down its allies with its less-than-expected contribution of 200 troops. Second-in-command at the UN, Mark Malloch Brown, called on Europe to deliver on its pledges.
“The particular appeal I want to make today is that Europe comes forward with troops for this first wave,” he said. “We got a good response yesterday as many of you have noticed. However, the firmer commitments – the firm commitments rather – came from Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Nepal.”
It is those contributions, from Indonesia and Malaysia – two countries that do not recognise Israel – which have alarmed Israeli officials. UN envoy Dan Gillerman says it would be “difficult if not inconceivable” to accept nations with no diplomatic relations as part of the peacekeeping force.