French forces ready for Lebanon patrol

Troops from France are preparing equipment for the start of south Lebanon patrols as part of the United Nations mission. The force will monitor the truce after a month of conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

The European Union wants first reinforcements to arrive within a week. Main deployment should take several more weeks, formation of the force slow in the making. Several European nations which were expected to contribute troops have been reluctant so far. They say they want clearer guidelines of how the mission will operate. Pressure on Europe to assemble the force has grown, as Israel rejected participation offers from Malaysia, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Adding to the blow, India is considering withdrawing its existing peacekeepers from the region. It fears soldiers may be asked to use force to maintain peace between Hezbollah forces and Israel. Syria said it would regard placing UN troops along the border as an aggressive move. Israel’s foreign minister said in Rome the situation on the ground was explosive and called for immediate action. Italy has pledged 3,000 soldiers and urges other EU countries to be generous with their contribution. EU foreign ministers are to discuss the issue in Brussels on Friday.