A force for peace: Lebanese troops move south

Up to 15,000 Lebanese troops headed south to positions near Israel’s border. They will join United Nations peacekeepers south of the Litani river, gradually taking over areas vacated by the withdrawing Israeli army.

France confirmed it would lead the strengthened UN force being sent to the region.

Intense negotiations continued in Lebanon and at the United Nations in New York on how to build the enlarged international force for the south. After a day of talks, the Lebanese cabinet gave the go-ahead for its troops to start moving there on Thursday. Prime Minister Faud Siniora said that once the 15,000-strong Lebanese army was in place, it would take full control of the area south of the Litani – no areas barred from its presence or outside its control. Participants in the international force have still to be determined. Israel objects to the inclusion of any countries with which it has no diplomatic relations. Indonesia and Malaysia have already offered to send 1,000 troops but neither has diplomatic ties.

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, said the international community had reached a moment of truth. Full implementation of UN resolution 17-01 could bring change to the region and a better future, she said. There was a need to address the true cause of violence in Lebanon and this was Hezbollah, Livni added. She called it a terror organisation representing Iranian interests in the region, and hatred and ideology against not only Israel but against the West and its values.