Austria could increase Golan presence

Spokeswoman confirms media reports on "strengthening of the troops."

August 17, 2006 17:14
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Austria is considering sending more soldiers as UN peacekeepers to the Golan Heights, a defense ministry spokeswoman said Thursday. "For us, a strengthening of the troops is conceivable," said Michaela Huber, spokeswoman for Austria's defense minister Guenther Platter. Huber's comments confirmed Austrian media reports citing Platter saying he would make such an offer to the United Nations. It was unclear if and when Platter would do so, Huber said. Austria currently has 377 soldiers stationed in the Golan Heights, Huber said. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said Austria would not be contributing to a UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, adding that the Alpine country's "main focus" for stabilization and peacekeeping in the region has, for decades, been the Golan. "We will maintain this main focus," she said in remarks broadcast on Austrian television. Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israeli-Syrian peace talks, which included talks on the return of the area, broke down in 2000.

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