UK daily sees French side in UN force quandary

21st August 2006, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Aug 20, 2006 (AFP) - A British newspaper expressed sympathy Sunday for France's reluctance to contribute many troops to a UN force designed to police a ceasefire agreement on the Lebanese-Israeli border.

LONDON, Aug 20, 2006 (AFP) - A British newspaper expressed sympathy Sunday for France's reluctance to contribute many troops to a UN force designed to police a ceasefire agreement on the Lebanese-Israeli border.

"It is easy to criticise the French government for its reluctance to contribute soldiers to the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon," the Sunday Telegraph said.

France joined the United States in crafting the UN resolution that led to the ceasefire and withdrawal of the Israeli army after a 34-day war between Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas and Israel.

However, France's contribution has fallen far short of the major commanding role that many had foreseen for the former colonial power in Lebanon.

"The French government's wariness is, however, understandable. French officials have called the mandate agreed for the UN force by the Security Council 'a recipe for disaster'," according to the conservative weekly.

"That description is likely to prove accurate. UN troops will not have the power to use force except in self-defence. They will not be allowed to intervene to disarm Hezbollah," it said.

"They will be reduced to being spectators on the activities of the 15,000-strong Lebanese army: an army that is 80 percent Shia, and which is known not to want to confront, let alone to disarm, Hezbollah," it said.

It recalled that in 1983, 58 French soldiers and 241 US Marines were killed in two attacks on their separate barracks in Beirut.

"If the UN presence is to have any positive effect, the Security Council must agree to a strengthened mandate," it said.

If the mandate comes, however, France will have no excuse but to throw its weight behind the force, it added.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which governs the ceasefire, called for Israeli troops to withdraw from south Lebanon in tandem with deployment of Lebanese troops and a beefed-up UN peacekeeping force in the area.

The United Nations has been urging European countries to provide troops to the peacekeeping force, as the Beirut government moved ahead with its deployment.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news


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