Italian troops who are spearheading the new UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon have begun partolling in the south of the country. The first soldiers of an initial contingent of almost 900 soldiers landed this morning. Italy is to send around 3,000 troops in all -the largest single component of the new force which will deploy along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
The international force has been slow to arrive since a ceasefire in mid-August ended fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerillas. Difficulties in hammering out details of its mandate have been cited as the main reason. UNIFIL II, as it is known, is intended to deploy with an equal number of Lebanese troops as Israel withdraws from southern Lebanon.
France will also be a major contributor with an eventual 2,000 troops on Lebanese soil. Some French 250 soldiers are already in place. Among other nations Indonesia says it will send up to 1,000 troops by the end of the month. The force is expected to reach total strength of 15,000.