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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 August 2006, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Mixed UN commitments from Europe
Extra French troops arrive in Lebanon
France is first to bolster the force - but the numbers are lower than expected

A UN plea for European states to boost their commitment to an enhanced United Nations mission in Lebanon has met with a mixed response.

Major offers had already come from countries including Malaysia and Indonesia, but UN officials said they wanted a more balanced force, and Europe should do more.

Many of the European nations willing in principle to contribute say they are holding back from final decisions until questions over the force's mandate have been cleared up.

Italy has offered to lead the peacekeeping force. "I have confirmed Italy's willingness," Prime Minister Romano Prodi said after speaking to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema confirmed that up to 3,000 troops could be sent. But he told an Italian newspaper that Italy first wanted a "renewed commitment" from Israel that it would "respect" the ceasefire.

French controversy

France has defended its decision to offer only 200 more troops, saying it wants a clearer mandate. The UN had hoped for 2,000-5,000 French personnel.

France already has 200 troops with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) and is offering the 200 more from an engineering regiment to help with transport and building projects. The first 50 have arrived in Lebanon.

Israeli soldiers return across the border from Lebanon 18 August 2006
The UN force and Lebanese army will take over as Israel withdraws
France has also said that 1,700 French troops currently stationed near Lebanon could assist Unifil, but only under French command, not UN control.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out sending ground troops, amid concerns that German soldiers could end up in conflict with Israelis.

But Germany is willing to offer a naval force strong enough to patrol and secure the whole of the Lebanese coast, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, to ensure that Hezbollah was not supplied with arms by ship.

Germany is also offering customs agents, police and border protection agents to patrol the Syrian border, he said.

UN diplomats say Denmark has also offered ships to patrol the Lebanese coast.

And Norway says it will provide naval support in the form of four motor torpedo boats, with about 100 personnel made up of crew and support workers, but says it wants the mandate firmed up first.

Other contributors

Turkey could be among the biggest contributors of ground forces. Reports suggest up to 5,000 troops could be offered, although no decisions have been taken - the foreign ministry says it is waiting for the mandate issues to be solved first.

Turkey, along with Cyprus, could also play a key role as a transit hub - both states have made the offer.

The UK is not sending ground forces, but says it will contribute a number of aircraft - including two Awacs surveillance planes - and one naval frigate.

In Belgium, Defence Minister Andre Flahaut said there was a "very high likelihood" of a contribution, but no decision would be taken until the "operational context" had been studied further.

Bulgaria is thought likely to send up to 300 troops, with an announcement possible over the weekend.

Finland is also seen as a likely contributor of some 250 troops.

Portugal is said to be evaluating the situation, along with other nations including Spain, Poland, Greece, Lithuania and Russia.

But the Netherlands has decided against any involvement. The foreign ministry said the Netherlands had already reached its limit, with troops in Afghanistan, Bosnia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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