25 August 2006
BRUSSELS — Belgium will deploy 302 UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon by the end of October, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said on Friday.
Speaking after the weekly Cabinet meeting, Verhofstadt also said the number of Belgian troops in Lebanon will eventually increase to 394.
The "strong" Belgian contribution to the Unifil force will consist of a mine sweeping unit along with medical and reconstruction teams.
Verhofstadt said the mine sweeping unit — a specialty of the Belgian military — is particularly important. "South Lebanon is strewn with mines," he said.
The Belgian government had long debated contributing to the UN mission due to uncertainty about the mandate given to the troops and security guarantees.
But the prime minister stressed that the force possessed a "robust" mandate.
Verhofstadt had earlier said on Friday morning that Belgium would take up its responsibility and supply troops to the peacekeeping mission.
The statement was made after a meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht will now discuss the mission in a special meeting of EU foreign ministers over the Unifil force.
According to the UN resolution 1701, the Unifil force must be bolstered from its current 2,000 troops to 15,000.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news
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