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Europe to Send 7,000 Peacekeepers to Lebanon

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that the European Union had agreed to provide 7,000 troops, or nearly half the expanded peacekeeping force, to southern Lebanon. Analysts discuss the U.N. mission.

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    Today's meeting in Brussels capped weeks of tense negotiations at the U.N. and world capitals. The issues: the composition and precise role of a U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.

    Today, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised Europe's decision to officially commit a combined 7,000 troops.

  • KOFI ANNAN, U.N. Secretary-General:

    Europe has lived up to its responsibility, provided the backbone to the force, and we can look forward confidently we're building a credible force that will help the international community achieve its goals in the region.


    Annan did stress that the U.N. force would not be expected to disarm Hezbollah.

    The promise of a robust international force was key to winning the U.N. cease-fire resolution that ended 34 days of fighting. The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah killed 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis.

    The resolution envisioned 15,000 international troops supplementing 15,000 Lebanese soldiers to keep the peace and serve as a buffer on the Lebanese-Israeli border. But setting up the force and agreeing on its rules of engagement was trickier than originally anticipated.

    A major stumbling block was the reluctance of France to send a large contingent of soldiers. Last week, French President Jacques Chirac offered just 400. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi stepped in to pledge 3,000 troops and suggested Italy command the force. Yesterday, Chirac upped the French contribution to 2,000; he said France should command the force.

    Annan announced today that the French would lead it until next February, when Italy would take over. Chirac did urge Annan to reconsider the total number of troops.

    JACQUES CHIRAC, President of France (through translator): I can be honest, I can't imagine that in a territory which is half of the size of a French province we could have 15,000 Lebanese troops deployed and 15,000 UNIFIL soldiers deployed. There is a big chance they would be bumping into each other.