Parliament voted overwhelmingly Thursday to send 1,100 Spanish troops to Lebanon, giving the green light to what the government called a risky but vital mission to achieve lasting Mideast peace.
The approval by the Chamber of Deputies makes Spain the third-largest contributor to the expanded UN force being created after 34 days of war between Israel and Hizbullah guerrillas, behind France and Italy. The first Spanish troops, about half of the total contingent, were to leave Friday for Lebanon aboard ships based at the Rota naval base in southern Spain.
Of 308 lawmakers present in the 350-seat lower chamber of parliament, 306 voted in favor, none against and two abstained after five hours of debate in which the Socialist government's conservative rivals voiced begrudging support for the mission, calling it dangerous and the administration less than forthcoming about it.
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