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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 August 2006, 07:37 GMT 08:37 UK
Australian PM: 'Disarm Hezbollah'
John Howard
John Howard said he had serious concerns about the UN deal
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said Hezbollah must be disarmed if the UN truce in Lebanon is to last.

Mr Howard said the UN Security Council resolution to end hostilities was not specific enough and needed a clear authority to disarm Hezbollah.

He also said he was undecided about whether Australia would send troops to support a UN peacekeeping mission in the Middle East.

He added that any Australian deployment would likely be very limited.

"If we were to make a decision to make a commitment, it would be a very small, niche commitment," Mr Howard told reporters in Sydney. "We have other responsibilities."

Australia has about 500 troops in Afghanistan and more than 1,300 troops in and around Iraq.

Doubts raised

Mr Howard said he had serious concerns about whether the UN-brokered truce between Israel and Hezbollah could last.

"It looks good on the surface but I am, myself, a little discomfited by the lack of specificities and the language regarding the disarming of Hezbollah," the prime minister said.

"Unless there's a clear determination and a clear authority to disarm Hezbollah this isn't going to work.

"I have real and serious reservations about the effectiveness and the lasting character of this resolution," Mr Howard added.

Limited mandate

The ceasefire deal between Israel and Hezbollah is due to come into force at 0500 GMT on Monday.

The UN resolution, drafted by the US and France, says Hezbollah must stop attacks on Israel and calls for the disarmament of armed groups in Lebanon.

But French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has said the mandate of the expanded UN force would not include disarming Hezbollah.

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