Italy asked to lead UN Lebanon peacekeepers

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked Italy to head the United Nations peacekeeping force for south Lebanon. He called for the lead in telephone talks with Italian premier Romano Prodi.

Italy's chances of leading the force rose after apparent French reluctance to send more than 200 additional troops. Italy has not said how many it is prepared to send. Officials in Rome say the figure could be up to 3,000, making it one of the biggest contributors.