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UN Peacekeeper Search Continues as EU Hesitates

DW staff (sms)August 18, 2006

As the Lebanese army drove into the country's southern region for the first time in 38 years, the EU stalled in giving firm troop pledges for the UN peacekeeping force to be deployed to the region.

EU forces won't make up the majority of the first peacekeepers to the Middle EastImage: AP

Concerns about the safety of the peacekeeping force and its rules of engagement have made European Union members and the United States hesitant in promising soldiers to the force during a United Nations conference in New York on Thursday.

The UN outlined what it said were "robust but not offensive" rules of engagement for peacekeepers and called for urgent troop commitments from member states. So far it has received solid pledges of 3,500 soldiers, up to 2,000 of whom be coming from Bangladesh, according to Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Frankreich Präsident Jacques Chirac
Over 1,500 French troops would stay in the region, but under French control, Chirac saidImage: AP

French President Jacques Chirac announced late on Thursday that France was ready to contribute a total of 400 additional troops to help shore up a fragile truce now in its fifth day -- far short of the major commanding role that many had foreseen for the former colonial power in Lebanon.

"We had hoped -- we make no secret of it -- that there would be a stronger French contribution," said Mark Malloch Brown, UN deputy secretary general. "Others have come forward and we are pretty convinced we've got the elements here of a strong force."

Clarifying the rules of engagement

Germany ruled out contributing ground troops but proposed sending a "maritime protection component" with its navy taking part in the future deployment, saying any moves hinged on the establishment of clear rules of engagement. Denmark also pledged to patrol the Mediterranean Ocean.

With its troops tied down in Iraq, London promised that while it would take part in the peacekeeping force, its contribution would come in the form of air and sea support and not ground troops, according to Emyr Jones Parry, Great Britain's UN's ambassador.

The focus has now moved to Italy, Spain and Belgium, which can move forces to Lebanon quickly to meet the UN's own 15-day deadline for an immediate deployment of 3,500 soldiers with the rest of the force in place by Nov. 4.

Many "interesting offers"

Libanesische Armee auf dem Weg in den Süden
The peacekeepers will bolster 15,000 Lebanese troops being sent to the Israeli borderImage: AP

Italy has said it could quickly send as many as 3,000 soldiers - up from its current contribution of about 50 -- but Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's office said it, like the other nations, was pushing for explicit ground rules.

"The draft rules of engagement call for the use of force to prevent the (UN Forces in Lebanon) area of deployment and operations from being used to hostile activities," Brown said.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Nepal, among others, offered ground troops, participants at the meeting told Reuters.

Barracks and hospitals were offered by Cyprus, which also said it could serve as a regional transit hub, and the United States said it would provide planning and logistics capabilities.

"We've had a lot of interesting offers, some fairly firm, some conditional on seeing the rules of engagement and the concept of operations," he added. "The show's on the road, but there's a lot of work to be done in the coming days."