UN mission in Lebanon ill-defined: France

18th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 18, 2006 (AFP) - France reiterated Friday that the expanded UN force in Lebanon must have a clearly defined mission and rules of engagement, and that it should be truly international.

PARIS, Aug 18, 2006 (AFP) - France reiterated Friday that the expanded UN force in Lebanon must have a clearly defined mission and rules of engagement, and that it should be truly international.

President Jacques Chirac made the comments in a telephone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chirac's office said.

France, which currently commands the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), has so far offered 200 more troops to the deployment meant to help the Lebanese army police a buffer zone near the southern border with Israel.

That number, given by Chirac late Thursday, would add to the 200 French troops already in UNIFIL, but fall far short of the 2,000-4,000 soldiers France had been expected to send.

In his conversation with Merkel, Chirac stressed "the importance of specifying as far as possible the missions, the rules of engagement, the chain of command and the means of this force," a presidential spokesman said.

He also "insisted on a necessary balance in the distribution of the contingents which must reflect the engagement of all the international community, including the European countries," the spokesman said.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701, unanimously adopted last week, gives a mandate for the UN interim force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to swell from its current level of 1,990 troops to 15,000 as Israeli forces withdraw from the region.

The UN is hoping to send a first deployment within 10 to 15 days, of between 3,000 and 3,500 soldiers.

Several countries, notably Italy, Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey, have expressed willingness to contribute troops.

France has suggested that 1,700 navy and air servicemen currently involved in operations off the coast of Lebanon could support UNIFIL, but only under French and not UN command.

Merkel on late Thursday ruled out sending ground troops to join UNIFIL, but said Germany could send a "maritime protection component" and provide logistics, air transport and reconnaissance, depending on what rules of engagement are agreed upon.

France was instrumental in drafting UN resolution 1701 but failed in its bid to have the text include language invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which would have permitted military action to be used to enforce compliance of the resolution.

Paris is concerned that the force to be deployed will not be robust enough or be permitted to oblige both Israel and Hezbollah to abide by the resolution without a strong mandate.

It is particularly conscious of its last peacekeeping effort in Lebanon, which came to an end after suicide bombings in 1983 killed 58 French soldiers and 241 US Marines in Beirut. Washington attributed the attacks to Hezbollah.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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