Merkel: Europe will send ground troops to Lebanon

August 21, 2006 17:58
1 minute read.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday she is confident that Europe will contribute ground troops to an expanded UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, but insisted that they needed clear rules soon for deployment. Merkel said it was important that Europe take on responsibility in Lebanon to show its "determination" to work for peace as it tries to defuse tensions over Iran's nuclear program. Germany's foreign minister said he was "skeptical" about the prospects for fresh negotiations with Teheran. Germany is offering to help patrol Lebanon's coastline and ensure Hizbullah militants are not supplied with weapons by sea. Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung repeated Monday that Germany will not supply front-line ground troops that would be stationed near Israel's border - a decision prompted in part by concerns over the Nazi-era past. Other European countries also have been hesitant. "I believe there will and should be a European contribution with ground troops - my discussions with the Italian prime minister have made me relatively hopeful here," Merkel told a news conference. "However, all the countries are saying what Germany is saying: we need the right rules for the deployment" and the approval of the Lebanese government, she said. Merkel, who met French President Jacques Chirac in Paris on Friday, said it was important to move "very quickly" to establish at least partly the force's mandate. Events over the weekend have illustrated the fragility of a week-old cease-fire "and we should not put this fragility to the test too much," she said.

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