As the latest contingent of French troops arrives in Lebanon, it has been confirmed that France will continue to command the United Nations mission to the country – until February 2007 at least. After that, Italy will take over. The news was announced by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, after the EU pledged to provide at least half the extra troops he needs for UNIFIL 2.
“Europe is providing a backbone to the force. I’m very, very encouraged by the firm commitments we have received here at this meeting,” he said. “I was very confident that Europe wanted to assume its responsibilities and show its solidarity with the people of Lebanon.” Annan’s comments followed a meeting with European Union foreign ministers – a conference he described as a “success”. He said the deployment of new troops to increase UNIFIL from 2,000 to 15,000 would begin within days.