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UNIFIL Force Deployment Begins in Lebanon

Italian soldiers have begun moving into position in southern Lebanon as part of the new UNIFIL force. Israel retracts its opposition to the inclusion of Indonesian troops in the peacekeeping force.
By Debbie Berman
First Publish: 9/3/2006, 7:12 AM / Last Update: 9/2/2006, 11:22 PM

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda announced plans to send up to 1,000 soldiers to join the UNIFIL force in Lebanon by the end of this month. This follows Israel's consent to allow Indonesian participation - even though Indonesia, a Moslem country, does not maintain diplomatic ties with Israel.

According to Israeli diplomatic sources, Israel remains opposed to the participation of Malaysia and Bangladesh in the force, citing the two countries' open support of Hizbullah during the recent war in Lebanon and their lack of diplomatic activity with Israel. In contrast, the sources stated that there has been an ongoing quiet diplomatic dialogue with Indonesia and described the Indonesian stance on the Hizbullah as more "moderate."

Approximately 1,000 Italian soldiers started moving into Lebanon on Saturday as part of the UNIFIL peacekeeping force. The force is to include up to 15,000 soldiers, according to UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

Spain voted on Friday to send 1,100 soldiers to serve in the UNIFIL force. Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega explained, "It is an operation that falls within international law. It is a peace operation in a country that has been destroyed."

Turkey has also committed to sending soldiers as well as a naval task force to take part in the UNIFIL force, despite public opposition in the country. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul asserted that Turkish soldiers were not being sent to disarm Hizbullah militants, adding, "But of course, if the soldiers come under attack they would defend themselves."

Germany will not send military troops, in order not to evoke images of armed Germans facing Jews, but has agreed to send observers and advisors.