EU, UN call for Middle East peacekeepers

17th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

17 July 2006, ST. PETERSBURG - The leaders of the G8 industrial nations and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called Monday for the swift deployment of international troops in southern Lebanon to end spiralling Mideast violence.

17 July 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - The leaders of the G8 industrial nations and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called Monday for the swift deployment of international troops in southern Lebanon to end spiralling Mideast violence.

"The UN needs time and space to make sure we have the troops - well-trained, well-equipped troops - to go in quite quickly," said Annan, speaking at the Group of Eight (G8) summit in St Petersburg.

"The sooner decisions are taken by the (UN) Security Council the better it is," he said.

Annan said a team of UN officials in the crisis region would report to the Security Council by the end of the week. He urged countries not to delay dispatching troops forces for the planned Middle East peace operation.

Saying details still had to be worked out, Annan gave no indication of the number of troops required nor any deadlines for the deployment.

G8 host Russian President Vladimir Putin and other G8 leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US welcomed Annan's support for the proposal made Sunday in a joint G8 declaration on the worsening situation.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G8 was determined to strengthen Lebanon's central government as part of a bid to halt Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel.

"I think it makes sense to have such a force based there," said Merkel who underlined that she envisaged expanding existing UN forces operating in southern Lebanon. Some 1,991 UN soldiers have been based in Lebanon since 1978.

French President Jacques Chirac also backed a new UN troop mission for Lebanon and called for setting up a border surveillance "cordon sanitaire" along the Israeli-Lebanese frontier.

"We cannot allow things to go on as they are. We have to have a means of repression and surveillance," said Chirac who said the force's mandate should include disarming Hezbollah militias who have been firing deadly rockets into Israel, provoking military strikes by the Jewish state across Lebanon.

The Lebanese central government does not control parts of southern Lebanon which are run by the Syrian-backed Islamist extremist Hezbollah militia.

British Prime Tony Blair strongly backed an international security and monitoring presence in the region, saying the only way to end hostilities was to dispatch a "stabilization force" to the area.

The G8 moves came amid a flurry of intense diplomatic activity aimed ending the carnage in Lebanon and Israel, with France's Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin flying to Beirut shortly after a visit by the European Union's chief diplomat Javier Solana to the Lebanese capital.

The St Petersburg summit was overshadowed by Israeli attacks on Lebanon, which entered a sixth day with almost 150 people killed while at least 24 Israelis have died, including eight killed in a Hezbollah rocket attack on Haifa on Sunday.

Under pressure to overcome earlier divisions on the crisis and forge a joint stance, G8 leaders issued a carefully-worded appeal for an end to the bloodshed.

But Blair admitted it seemed to have had no effect as Israel launched new airstrikes Monday across Lebanon and in Gaza.

"The G8 and the international community can issue whatever calls (for peace) it wants - but it's not going to happen," said Blair, adding that this was why international forces were needed in the region as a new element to change the "dynamics" of the conflict.

Putin was equally sober on the chances of the G8 peace bid which blamed extremists for the violence, called for the return of three captured Israeli soldiers and then a halt to military operations.

"So far efforts to bring about a ceasefire have come to nothing. I can't say we can be very optimistic, but I hope reason will prevail," Putin said, adding that he was hopeful Russia's contacts with Hamas would help win the freedom of three captured Israelis.

US President George W Bush continued to blame Syria, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah for being at the root of the bloodshed.

"Hezbollah, that's housed and encouraged by Syria, financed by Iran, are making these moves to stop the progress of peace," said Bush.

The G8 declaration stressed it was "critical that Israel, while exercising the right to defend itself, be mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions."


Subject: German news

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