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With Monday ceasefire set, Annan seeks 13,000 soldiers

Monsters and Critics :: 13 Aug 2006

‘New York – With a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah set for Monday morning, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is now looking for 13,000 additional UN soldiers for southern Lebanon.

The UN member states must provide the troops as quickly as possible for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) before the situation on the ground gets out of control again, Annan said.

European countries will most likely provide the troops under French leadership. Britain and the United States have indicated they will not participate.

Annan, a Nobel peace price winner, Saturday talked to the prime ministers of Israel and Lebanon, who agreed that the ceasefire should begin at 0500 GMT – 8 am local time – on Monday.

Under the UN Security Council resolution passed unanimously Friday evening in New York, Israel is to withdraw from Lebanon after the cessation of hostilities, while at the same time 15,000 Lebanese soldiers are to move in to the region now under control of Hezbollah militia.

Parallel to that, UNIFIL is to expand from its current 2,000 troop presence to 15,000 to support the Lebanese troops. It was not clear how soon that would happen.

The UN force ‘must be robust and effective, and ensure that no vacuum is left between the Israeli withdrawal and the deployment of Lebanese forces’, Annan said Friday.

The UN troops must also be provided with sophisticated military capabilities and additional troops as soon as possible, he said.

‘Even though it’s called UNIFIL, this is not the same force,’ US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with Israel Radio One Saturday. ‘I’m quite certain now that there will be an international force that will have a robust mandate. It will have real troops in it.

The text of the interview was released in Washington. Rice said she believed Israel had \’weakened Hezbollah’s command and control.

‘The Lebanese government has an obligation to start the disarmament of Hezbollah,’ Rice said. ‘I think there will now be pressure for them to do that because nobody, including the Lebanese government, wants to have a state within a state.’

In an e-mail to news organizations, Annan said he was ‘happy’ to announce the ceasefire.

The Lebanese cabinet accepted the UN resolution on Saturday with ‘reservations’ and was due to continue discussions on Sunday. The Israeli cabinet is to vote on the resolution on Sunday.

The UN resolution aims to end the month-long conflict between Israel and Lebanese-based Hezbollah militia, but squarely lays blame for starting the conflict on Hezbollah militia who captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12.

Hezbollah chief sheikh Hassan Nasrallah Saturday said his guerrilla group would abide by any ceasefire brokered by the United Nations, but termed the UN resolution ‘unjust and unfair’ because it holds Hezbollah responsible for starting the conflict.

More than 1,000 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 120 Israelis have died in the month-long war.

In July, the European Union said it stands ready to participate in an international Mideast peacekeeping force. A call for swift deployment of international troops was made at the G8 summit last month. Spain has indicated it would be willing to participate.

Annan urged fighting to stop immediately in advance of the 0500 GMT Monday deadline. But Saturday saw an intensified push from both sides before the ceasefire takes effect, as Israel poured fresh troops into Lebanon and Hezbollah shot down an Israeli helicopter.

‘Preferably, the fighting should stop now to respect the spirit and intent of the Council decision, the object of which was to save civilian lives, to spare the pain and suffering that the civilians on both sides are living through,’ Annan said in the statement.

© 2006 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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