Up to 5,000 troops for Lebanon force, says UN

30th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 30, 2006 (AFP) - The UN force in Lebanon will have 4,000 to 5,000 troops at its disposal by end September, UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno said in an interview published Wednesday, saying a "necessary" number would be deployed in the country's south.

PARIS, Aug 30, 2006 (AFP) - The UN force in Lebanon will have 4,000 to 5,000 troops at its disposal by end September, UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno said in an interview published Wednesday, saying a "necessary" number would be deployed in the country's south.

"On Friday, the first Italian troops will start to deploy, which means we should reach, within a month, a level of 4,000 to 5,000 men or a doubling of the force," Guehenno told France's Le Monde newspaper.

"We will deploy whatever number is necessary. If that is 15,000 men, we will deploy them. If we realise that we need more, we will ask for more. If it takes fewer, we will deploy fewer," he said.

"We will adjust to the situation on the ground," Guehenno said.

The enlarged UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is intended to enforce a fragile ceasefire that ended a month of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants, supporting the Lebanese army as it deploys in southern Lebanon.

Guehenno said the force would include "major Muslim countries to show clearly that it a force that represents the whole world", adding that Lebanon was keen to see states such as Indonesia and Malaysia play a leading role.

He also repeated that UNIFIL would not take part in the disarmament of Hezbollah militias, saying that was a "political process" and "the responsibility of the Lebanese government".

"We have been very clear on this point. Disarmament does not need to be carried out by force. And UNIFIL does not have the mandate to do so."

However, he said it had both the "mandate" and "means" to "prevent any hostile activities" or any "military position being set up" near a UN position.

"We will have the means to avoid being pushed around, and we will not be pushed around," he said, when asked whether UNIFIL would consider using armed force against Hezbollah militias.

"Unfortunately, since the cessation of hostilities, there have been more Israeli violations than violations by armed elements in Lebanon," he added, warning the country remained in a "dangerous situation".

"It is very important that this stops because UNIFIL must not be challenged, from any side," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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