NATO in Lebanon not ruled out, but French resist

26th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, July 26, 2006 (AFP) - NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer declined Wednesday to rule out a role for the military alliance in an international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, but France immediately voiced skepticism.

BRUSSELS, July 26, 2006 (AFP) - NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer declined Wednesday to rule out a role for the military alliance in an international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, but France immediately voiced skepticism.

French President Jacques Chirac dismissed the idea of NATO involvement in the violence-scarred country because the organisation "is perceived, if we like it or not, as the armed wing of the West in the region."

Israel has voiced support for a NATO role in such a force, a key agenda item at an international conference in Rome Wednesday on the Mideast crisis - and NATO's secretary general refused to rule out that option.

"I do not include or exclude anything, but at the moment I will not speculate about any NATO role," de Hoop Scheffer told reporters in Brussels, when asked about a possible involvement by the 26-nation alliance.

Referring to the Rome conference of foreign ministers, including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he said: "Many suggestions are on the table including people, ministers...who talk about a NATO role."

But he said: "This is not the moment and that has nothing to do with being unenthusiastic," adding: "I see many suggestions ending with a question mark.

"I take the position that I hope the Rome conference will yield some results ...and begin to draw a common line."

On Sunday Israel said it was ready to back an international force led by NATO in south Lebanon to ease tensions.

"Israel supports the possibility of deploying a multi-national force with a strong mandate," possibly sponsored by NATO, Israeli Defence Minster Amir Peretz was quoted as saying in Jerusalem.

Chirac meanwhile, in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, proposed that international peacekeepers could be sent to secure Lebanon's borders with Israel and Syria without NATO involvement.

The mission of the international force "would be to control the ceasefire and assure the respect of the borders, both the Israeli-Lebanese border and Syrian-Lebanese border of course," he said.

Sending troops is contingent on "a political agreement that assumes a ceasefire."

The agreement "must be negotiated partly by the Lebanese government and Hezbollah and partly between the international community, the Lebanese government and Israel," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article