UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations is on a global hunt for troops, military
equipment, and logistical support to revamp its existing peacekeeping force
in Lebanon, which has been mandated to monitor last week's cease-fire between
Israel and Hezbollah.
"We have no formal offers yet," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told
reporters Tuesday. "We would like to have firm commitments of troops as
soon as possible."
Asked if Secretary-General Kofi Annan was concerned that no country has so
far offered troops following the UN's cease-fire resolution last Friday, Dujarric
said: "We do expect a more formal meeting [of troop-contributing nations]
on Thursday at which point, hopefully, we will get those offers [of troops]."
The cease-fire resolution, which was adopted unanimously by the 15-member Security
Council last week, called for an increase in the force strength of the existing
UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from its current 1,990 troops to a proposed
As there are UNIFIL troops already on the ground, Dujarric said, the United
Nations is not operating "in a vacuum." "We have UNIFIL,"
Since the adoption of the resolution, the United Nations has hosted two meetings
of troop-contributing countries. The first was attended by some 28 countries
and the second by 17 countries.
The United States, which co-sponsored the resolution with France, has declared
it will not provide any troops. But it has indicated a willingness to provide
logistical support, including transport aircraft to ferry troops into Lebanon.
The bulk of the troops is expected to come from Western nations, with little
or none from neighboring Arab countries. The United Nations believes that the
only "robust" force well-trained and well-equipped soldiers
can come mostly from Western states.
France is expected to provide about 5,000 troops, the largest single contingent,
followed perhaps by Italy, with about 2,000 to 3,000 troops.
Other potential troop contributors include Spain and Australia. At least three
Muslim countries Indonesia, Malaysia, and Turkey are also expected
to contribute troops.
UNIFIL, which was created in March 1958, costs about $100 million annually.
If the revamped UNIFIL gets off the ground, it will be the second-largest UN
Currently, the largest force is the 15,600-strong UN Mission in the Democratic
Republic of Congo (MONUC), created in November 1999 and costing over $1.1 billion
Dujarric told reporters that the UNIFIL Force Commander, Gen. Alain Pellegrini
of France, met with senior officers of the Lebanese and Israeli armies "to
discuss the implementation of and compliance with the agreement."
He said they also discussed the withdrawal of the Israeli army and the deployment
of the Lebanese armed forces in south Lebanon.
Dujarric said that both Annan and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations
"are working to drum up troops for this force."
"We'll need to have a highly capable force, which will be able to carry
out the mandate given to it by the Security Council. But, I think, as opposed
to past situations, we do have one leg up here, as there already is a UN force
in south Lebanon [UNIFIL]."
So obviously, he said, it will be a challenge to get these troops, but, "We
don't face the situation that we faced in some other countries where we go in
and there is no UN infrastructure on the ground."
Meanwhile, the Security Council has also welcomed a decision by the Lebanese
government to deploy 15,000 of its troops to south Lebanon. This will be in
addition to the UN force of 15,000, bringing the total to 30,000 troops.
According to the resolution that was adopted last week, the UN force will coordinate
its activities with the governments of both Lebanon and Israel. The UN force
will also accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy throughout
Additionally, the UN force will provide assistance to ensure humanitarian access
to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons.
Dujarric also said that the disarming of militias, including Hezbollah, will
not be the responsibility of the UN force. But the United Nations "will
assist the government of Lebanon in asserting its authority over all of southern
Besides troops, the United Nations is also in need of fixed-wing aircraft,
helicopters, armored personnel carriers, and trucks. As a general rule, troops
from most Western nations arrive with their own equipment.
(Inter Press Service)