The UNIFIL peacekeeping force is taking shape with the imminent arrival of the first Italian troops. Some 800 soldiers set sail from Rome on Tuesday bound for Lebanon where they are expected to arrive on Friday. Rome is due to send a total of 3,000 troops to Lebanon – making it the biggest contributor to the international force. The soldiers, who were praised by Prime Minister Romano Prodi, have been warned their mission could be long and risky.
They will be joining French troops already in Lebanon. An extra division from the French army has arrived in Beirut, bringing in equipment to help rebuild 15 bridges destroyed in the war. According to initial estimates, the conflict is thought to have caused around three billion euros worth of damage. On the ground, Chinese soldiers from the UNIFIL force are continuing the dangerous job of removing unexploded devices in southern Lebanon.
Deminers say making the south safe will take years as an estimated 30 percent of all ordnances dropped during the war failed to explode.