Syria has warned it will close its border with Lebanon if UN peacekeepers are stationed along it. The threat was revealed by the Finnish Foreign Minister after a meeting with his Syrian counterpart. Israel wants a UN force to police the frontier, which it claims is used by Damascus to smuggle arms to Hizbollah. But, in a television interview, the Syrian President rejected any such deployment – saying international troops in the border region would be a threat to Lebanon’s sovereignty as well as being hostile to Syria. Bashar al-Assad also said it would be bad for relations between his country and Lebanon.
The Lebanese government is in the process of deploying 15,000 soldiers to the south to work alongside a similar number of UN peacekeeping troops. But the UN’s bid to drum up support for its expanded force in the region is proving difficult. European Union diplomats and ambassadors have been working in Brussels to prepare the ground for tomorrow’s foreign ministers’ meeting to decide on the bloc’s troop contributions. EU states say they want greater clarity about how the force will go about its tasks.
UN-Secretary General Kofi Annan is due to attend before heading to the Middle East for a tour taking in Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Iran.