In a symbolic visit to southern Lebanon, the foreign ministers of France, Italy and Spain pledged unequivocal support for UN peacekeepers overseeing a truce along the Lebanese-Israeli border increasingly threatened by al-Qaida-inspired militants and political instability in Beirut.
The visit by Bernard Kouchner of France, Massimo D'Alema of Italy and Miguel Angel Moratinos of Spain comes at a difficult political time for Lebanon. The three ministers are hoping to help mediate among the feuding Lebanese factions because the deep political crisis in Beirut could have serious implications on the UN mission in southern Lebanon.
Already, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon of 13,530 from some 28 countries have come under attack in southern Lebanon. In June, a car bombing killed six peacekeepers from the Spanish contingent. Other bombings recently have been thwarted by authorities, with army intelligence announcing early in the week the arrest of seven Palestinian militants who planned attacks.
No group has claimed responsibility for the June attack or another one that followed in July. But in a July videotape, al-Qaida's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri blessed the first attack, fueling speculation that it was carried out by al-Qaida-linked militants.