“Come in fast and come in strong,” was the message conveyed to the EU by Israel’s foreign minister, by way of France. Tzipi Livni told her French counterpart in Paris that a UN force to defuse the tension in Lebanon is needed urgently. She said supplies to Hizbollah guerrillas there continue to get through, and that the present conditions are sensitive to the point of explosive.
Philippe Douste-Blazy identified what he said were two distinct goals for the reinforced UN interim force in Lebanon: UNIFIL must support the Lebanese army in its deployment and it must ensure that no arms enter the country across any of its borders. He also urged an end to Israel’s blockade of Lebanese ports, to improve humanitarian access and give it an economic kiss of life.
At talks in Brussels today, against a backdrop of mixed public feelings about Rome’s commitment, Italy has set out to convince wary fellow European Union states to support its pledge of up to 3,000 troops. The Italian military has broad modern experience overseas. It is now on 28 missions in 19 countries. France is offering just 200 troops for the UN force, for now. A meeting of the 25 foreign ministers on Friday, which UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is due to attend, is expected to produce commitments. Paris has indicated it could dispatch more soldiers once the terms of the mission are set.