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Lebanon to Request German Participation in UN Force

DW staff/AFP (jb)September 4, 2006

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Seniora said Monday that Lebanon was drafting a letter to the UN formally requesting that Germany participate in the UN force in the country.

German soldiers are waiting to follow French and Italian colleaguesImage: AP

Siniora made the announcement after Germany over the weekend said it had postponed a decision on how to contribute to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) pending a formal request from Lebanon.

"Germany wants a letter that should be sent to the UNIFIL and this is something that is in the process, we really have to do it," Siniora told reporters.

Doing things properly

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday said Berlin's offer of sending its navy to help patrol the Lebanese coast still stood but that the country wanted to follow the proper procedures for the sake of its soldiers.

"In this case, it is better to do things properly than to proceed in a hurry," she said. "No German government will take a risk that it not justified."

Berlin had been scheduled to receive an official request on Sunday and to announce the number of troops it plans to send to Lebanon later that day.

Reconstruction in Beirut
There is much to repair in bombed out BeirutImage: AP

A special cabinet sitting to finalize other details of the mission was scheduled for Monday, but has also been postponed.

Germany needed a request to the UN from Lebanon, a "robust mandate" from the world body and the approval of the lower house of parliament for the mission, government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told reporters on Sunday.

No ground troops

So far, Berlin has ruled out sending ground troops to Lebanon, but Germany is expected to assume the naval command of the bolstered UN force that must police a fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and stop the flow of arms to the radical Shiite organization.

The country is expected to contribute up to 3,000 sea and air troops.

Putting an international force in place on Lebanon's coast is important for Lebanese businesses as an Israeli sea blockade has stopped goods from arriving in Lebanese ports since July, Lebanese business representatives told AFP.

Despite calls from the European Union and United Nations, Israel said it would not lift the blockade until an international force is put in place to stop weapons smuggling to Hezbollah fighters.

Libanon EU Außenminister in Brüssel Frank-Walter Steinmeier und Kofi Annan
Germany wants a clear UN mandate before sending troopsImage: AP

Government spokesman Wilhelm said the other nations which are likely to help protect Lebanon's coast -- Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden -- were also waiting for the green light from Beirut before sending naval forces to the region.

The UN-brokered truce in Lebanon calls for the UNIFIL force in Lebanon to expand to up to 15,000 soldiers with a stronger mandate. They will be joined by a 15,000-strong Lebanese army force to prevent Hezbollah attacks.

Italy has already received its marching orders from the UN, and some 890 of its soldiers arrived in Lebanon to strengthen the UN force already in place there. Additional French ground troops are also expected in the region by the end of the week.