Sun, Aug 27, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Annan to discuss force in Beirut


UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will arrive in Beirut tomorrow to discuss the deployment of a beefed- up UN peacekeeping force as well as measures to secure the border with Syria, a Lebanese official said.

He said Annan, who will spend the night in Beirut, will meet with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, Defense Minister Elias Murr, parliament speaker Nabih Berri and army commander General Michel Sleiman.

Mohammed Chatah, Siniora's top adviser, said the minister spoke by telephone with Annan late on Friday concerning the deployment of the force and related issues.

"During Annan's visit, the Lebanese government plans to raise as a priority the total lifting of Israel's air and naval blockade on Lebanon which is in violation of UN [Security Council] Resolution 1701 and which is punishing the entire population," Chatah said.

"As far as Lebanon is concerned, Israel must withdraw immediately and without delay" from south Lebanon, he added.

He said Siniora also planned to raise the issue of the disputed Shebaa Farms district during his discussion with Annan.

The territory, located at the junction of Lebanon, Syria and Israel, was captured by the Jewish state as part of the Syrian Golan Heights during the 1967 war.

The Shebaa Farms are now claimed by Lebanon with the approval of Syria in an arrangement that is not recognized by the UN.

The official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Annan was not planning on meeting with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, who has come under criticism by the international community for his close ties with Syria.

"The discussions will focus on measures taken by Lebanon to secure the border with Syria," which is widely accused of funneling Iranian arms to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, the source said.

UN force in Lebanon

* Italy has agreed to send up to 3,000 troops.

* France said it will deploy 2,000 troops, including 200 currently in Lebanon.

* Finland said it would send up to 250 peacekeepers by November.

* Germany will not send troops, but will offer naval forces to help patrol the Lebanese coast.

* Netherlands said it would not send troops but may offer a navy patrol vessel.

* Spain has reportedly offered between 700-1,000 troops.

* Poland has said it would send 500 soldiers.

* Belgium is sending 400 troops, including anti-mine experts and medical units.

* Bangladesh has offered two mechanized battalions with 1,600-2,000 troops.

* Indonesia has offered one mechanized battalion and an engineering company totaling about 1,000 troops.

* Malaysia pledged one mechanized battalion, and Nepal pledged one mechanized infantry battalion, also totaling 1,000 soldiers

* Bulgaria and Turkey said they would send troops, but did not give an exact number.

Source: AP

The Lebanese government on Friday refused the deployment of soldiers from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) along the border with Syria, which had threatened to close the frontier if UN troops were sent there under a UN Security Council resolution that led to the Aug. 14 ceasefire.

The source said Annan will also underscore during his discussions with Lebanese officials the need for "only the armed presence of Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers" in southern Lebanon, for long a bastion of Hezbollah whose capture of two Israeli soldiers sparked the devastating 34-day offensive.

Meanwhile, European nations pledged on Friday up to 7,000 troops to form the core of a beefed-up peacekeeping mission in Lebanon capable of enforcing the fragile truce between Israel and Hezbollah.

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