Italian troops have been consolidating their positions in southern Lebanon amid the deployment of a new UN peacekeeping force in the south of the country. More than half of an initial contingent of almost 900 are now in place after they began arriving on Saturday.
The Marines have set up a base near the city of Tyre. The multinational force is expected to eventually number up to 15,000 and Rome is providing the largest number of troops, around 3,000. The UN force, in tandem with the Lebanese army, will police the ceasefire that brought an end to fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas.
They will also help in the reconstruction of areas devastated by weeks of bombardment. There was a welcome from some locals for the foreign soldiers, though others have expressed scepticism about the mission and some even hostility to it. UN Secertary General Koffi Annan has said occupying Israeli troops should withdraw as soon as 5,000 peacekeepers are in place.