France wants clear mandate for expanded Lebanon force

23rd August 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 23, 2006 (AFP) - France and Israel said Wednesday it was "vital" for an expanded UN force to deploy in Lebanon to bolster the shaky ceasefire there between Israel and Hezbollah.

PARIS, Aug 23, 2006 (AFP) - France and Israel said Wednesday it was "vital" for an expanded UN force to deploy in Lebanon to bolster the shaky ceasefire there between Israel and Hezbollah.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a joint news conference in Paris with his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni that they had both agreed that reinforcements to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon had to be sent "with a clear and clearly defined mandate".

He said both also wanted "a full and complete application of UN resolution 1701 by all the parties, including Hezbollah."

That resolution, passed August 11, gives the mandate for a UN force of up to 15,000 international troops to assist the Lebanese army in taking control of southern Lebanon from Hezbollah.

Livni, speaking in Hebrew, said Israel halted its offensive on Lebanon on the basis of the resolution and on the international community's willingness to act to stop Hezbollah missile attacks.

"The international community's forces must be there to help the Lebanese government and army to regain control of its territory," she said.

She added that Israel and the Lebanese population paid "an extremely heavy price" for the non-application of an earlier UN resolution which had demanded the disarmament of Hezbollah and other Lebanese militia.

"The final goal is that of a Lebanon that is free and free of militias," she said, adding that "all extremists' eyes are focused on the region now" to see what will be the outcome of the conflict.

Livni also thanked Douste-Blazy for calling for the release of Israeli soldiers in the hands of Hezbollah and Hamas, and said: "I hope that after these months of violence we can turn towards a brighter future for all the region."

Douste-Blazy, who made four trips to Lebanon during and after the recent Israel-Hezbollah conflict, said before meeting Livni that he would ask her to lift Israel's blockade on Lebanese ports and airports.

"If Lebanon is to reconstruct, if it is going to recover economically, this blockade must be lifted," he told France 2 television.

Israel imposed a total embargo on Lebanon shortly after the start of its offensive against Hezbollah on July 12, and has maintained it even after a UN-brokered ceasefire went into effect on August 14.

Douste-Blazy also said he would ask that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, enforce an embargo on the transport of arms across Lebanon's border -- implicitly including the border with Syria, considered a Hezbollah sponsor and arms provider.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that he would consider the presence of an international military force on the border between Syria and Lebanon as a "hostile" act.

Later Wednesday, Livni was to meet French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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