Send Legion to Gaza, Israeli minister tells France

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Israel would happily lift its blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip if France would play its part... by sending in the legendary Foreign Legion to keep order, an Israeli minister said on Monday.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has often made headlines with his candid remarks and sometimes outlandish behaviour -- he once gave a live radio interview from the loo -- said he had raised the idea during talks with his French counterpart Alain Juppe in June.

"I have no problem in lifting the blockade tomorrow as long as there is a force to inspect everything coming into the Gaza Strip and (prevent) terrorist activity," Lieberman told MPs on Monday.

"Instead of us doing it ourselves, you (can) send the French Foreign Legion!"

The remarks were confirmed to AFP by an Israeli official present at the meeting in parliament.

"Don't send girls with olive branches," Lieberman added, in an apparent reference to a boatload of French peace activists who tried to reach Gaza in defiance of Israel's blockade on the territory.

Romanticised in fiction, the Legion has a 180-year history of sorting out troubles in foreign lands, originally in France's colonial empire.

Israel says its blockade is necessary to prevent weapons from entering the coastal territory, which is run by the Islamist Hamas movement, but activists criticise it as collective punishment of the territory's 1.5 million residents.

© 2011 AFP

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