“I think the initial force can be deployed now,” U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said Monday. “We want the disarming of Hezbollah to be accomplished rapidly so that the democratically elected government of Lebanon can establish full control over its territory.”
Countries planning to contribute peacekeepers to the region have expressed concern about the rules of engagement and exactly what troops would be required to do about disarming Hezbollah.
President Bush told reporters Monday the peacekeepers are necessary to create a “security cushion” in southern Lebanon by upholding a fragile truce between Israel and Hezbollah militants.
“The international community must now designate the leadership of this international force, give it robust rules of engagement and deploy it as quickly as possible to secure the peace,” he said.
The president also said the United States would provide $230 million in aid for Lebanon, including 25,000 tons of wheat, and help train its armed forces, reported the Associated Press.
The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Aug. 11 authorizing a peacekeeping force of up to 15,000 troops and committing to an initial contingent of 3,500 soldiers to southern Lebanon by Sept. 2.
France, which had agreed to spearhead the mission, has offered only a few hundred troops, saying it needs clearer rules of engagement before committing to more forces.
Italy has approved 3,000 troops, according to the AP.
President Bush declined to say whether he thought Israel had violated the cease-fire by raiding Lebanon over the weekend, but said the Jewish nation should be “cautious” about how it defends itself.
Meanwhile, airlines resumed flights to and from Lebanon’s capital Beirut, but at Israel’s insistence, the planes were routed through Jordan for security checks, Reuters quoted an unnamed security official as saying.
The first airplane landed in Beirut Thursday after five weeks of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerillas, sparked by Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers.