As the EU struggles to gather military contributions for Lebanon, Italy has said it would lead the peacekeeping mission. DW-RADIO spoke with Italian political scientist Franco Pavoncello about Italy's decision.
Unlike Italy's contribution in Iraq, the Lebanese mission enjoys wide support
DW-RADIO: Why is Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi so keen to lead a peacekeeping force in Lebanon?
Pavoncello: I think that there are several reasons. One is that Mr. Prodi sees the possibility of sending a signal both to the Europeans and to the Americans that his government is taking an international role, and the other is that this position on Lebanon is widely accepted by the majority, so in a way, it is an element of cohesion within the government.
Do you think it will improve Italy's image in Europe?
I think so. I think that what Mr. Prodi has done in the last couple of days is to be seen as a key player by all parties in the conflict, and I think that this is a positive development for his government.
UN troops already stationed in Lebanon are in need of back-up
Do you think UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will see it the same way and agree to allow Italy to lead a peacekeeping mission?
I would not be surprised if he did. I think that Italy so far has had an important role in taking the initiative, and stimulating other countries to send troops.
Looking at figures, how many troops in total is Rome prepared to send and what functions will they be performing in Lebanon?
They have already committed about 3,000 soldiers and the rules of engagement have been spelled out clearly and have appeared in the press, so I think the Italian people are willing to accept it.
Italy has already pulled troops out of Iraq due to public opinion -- couldn't this mission end in a similar way, or provoke similar reactions from Italians?
No, I think these are two very different situations. I mean, Iraq was seen as a move on the coattails of the United States' intervention, and was perceived as joining in proactive action in a foreign county. This is perceived totally differently -- it's perceived as an attempt by the United Nations to stop warring parties, so this is a very different story.
Franco Pavoncello is the head of the political science department at Rome's John Cabot University. He was interviewed by Jane Conway. (dc)