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Last Updated: Monday, 18 September 2006, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
China ups Lebanon force to 1,000
UN peacekeeping engineers from China work in the port in the southern Lebanese city of Naqoura - 17/8/06
China sent 180 engineers to Lebanon before the recent fighting
China will increase its peacekeeping presence in Lebanon to 1,000 troops, Premier Wen Jiabao has confirmed.

The move would make China one of the largest contributors to a strengthened UN force designed to keep the peace.

It would also signal that China, now the world's fourth largest economy, was starting to lift its diplomacy in areas it had previously not seen as vital.

The UN wants to raise troop numbers in southern Lebanon to 15,000 as part of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

It follows August's UN-brokered truce which ended 34 days of fighting between Israel and the militant Hezbollah movement.

TROOP DEPLOYMENTS/PLEDGES
France - lead role, 2,000 troops
Italy - 2,500-3,000 troops
Bangladesh - two battalions (2,000 troops)
China - 1,000 troops
Malaysia - one battalion
Spain - mechanised battalion
Indonesia - battalion and engineering company
Nepal - one battalion
Denmark - at least two ships
Poland - 500 troops
Belgium - 400 troops
Finland - 250 troops
Germany - maritime/border patrols, no combat troops
Norway - 100 soldiers

More than 1,100 Lebanese - mostly civilians - were killed during the war. More than 150 Israelis - mainly soldiers - were also killed.

Leading role

Mr Wen made the announcement - which had been hinted at last week - following talks in Beijing with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

"China is very concerned about the situation in Lebanon and hopes it can be fundamentally resolved," Mr Wen said.

Mr Prodi said it showed China was taking on a greater diplomatic role.

CHINA'S PEACEKEEPERS
1989: Takes part in first UN mission, to Namibia
2000: Sends 15 peacekeepers to East Timor
2003: Sends 550 troops to Liberia, and 175 to DR Congo
2004: Sends one policeman to Afghanistan
Sep 2006: Announces a 180-strong mission to Lebanon to be lifted to 1,000 troops

"This shows that China is assuming more and more international responsibility," he said.

In the past, China has been reluctant to play leading roles in UN peacekeeping missions.

Until 1989, it shunned UN missions for interfering in other country's internal affairs.

But as China's economy has grown more powerful, it has faced calls from the US and EU to play a greater role. It own foreign policy has shifted so that ensuring access to natural resources like oil is now a priority.

Earlier this year - before the fighting between Israel an Hezbollah - China sent 180 peacekeepers to the Unifil force in Lebanon, its first peacekeeping contingent to the Middle East.

Increasing the force to 1,000 troops would make it the largest Chinese contribution to a UN peacekeeping mission so far.

A rotating force of about 2,000 Unifil peacekeepers have been stationed in southern Lebanon since 1978.

Under Resolution 1701, the expanded force will support the Lebanese army taking over areas that have been controlled by Hezbollah since Israel ended its occupation of the south in 2000.




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