NATO discusses possible Middle East role

27th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

27 July 2006, BRUSSELS - NATO envoys on Wednesday discussed calls for an alliance peacekeeping role in southern Lebanon but officials said it was too early for a decision on such an operation.

27 July 2006

BRUSSELS - NATO envoys on Wednesday discussed calls for an alliance peacekeeping role in southern Lebanon but officials said it was too early for a decision on such an operation.

Asked if the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was ready to lead an international mission as suggested by Israel, a spokesman for the 26-nation alliance said: "Nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out."

Spokesman James Appathurai insisted that NATO had not started military planning for such an exercise.

"So much diplomatic work needs to be done to develop a common international view" on such a force, he said, referring to French opposition to extending NATO action into the Middle East.

Germany has also ruled out using NATO's reaction force as peacekeepers in the Middle East. "There is no shared NATO view" on the deployment, admitted Appathurai.

Meanwhile, the European Union's chief diplomat has said he expects several European governments to contribute soldiers to the mission, triggering speculation that the EU may want to lead the operation.

Appathurai said a decision on deploying an international force would be taken by the United Nations Security Council, adding that many issues regarding the mandate, mission and duration of the operation remained undecided.

The deployment of between 10,000 to 20,000 troops in southern Lebanon would "have to be looked at very carefully...this would be a very complex and challenging mission in a very volatile environment," said Appathurai.

NATO is currently leading an international stabilization force in Afghanistan and is planning to press ahead with a near doubling of troop levels from 9,000 to 17,000 in the country in the coming weeks.

Other NATO operations are underway in Iraq as well as in the western Balkans and in Darfur in Sudan.

On Sunday Israel said it was ready to back an international force led by NATO in south Lebanon to ease tensions, a request which surprised many at the alliance's headquarters.

DPA

Subject: German news

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