Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi inspected his country's peacekeepers in south Lebanon on Wednesday, becoming the first head of government to visit the former battlefield since the Israel-Hizbullah war.
Prodi flew by helicopter to Tibnine, a town 15 kilometers (9.5 miles) north of the Israeli border, where the Italian contingent of the United Nations peacekeeping force had set up base. He reviewed an honor guard, thanked troops for their service, got a briefing from officers and had lunch with military commanders.
After meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora earlier in Beirut, Prodi expressed his government's willingness, if asked, to help mediate the release of two Israeli soldiers, whose capture by Hizbullah on July 12 sparked the fighting.
Prodi also said Lebanon's status would effect the whole Middle East. "The stability of Lebanon is the instrument toward stability of the area," he told reporters.
Saniora expressed appreciation for what he called Italy's "strong participation" in the UN operation.