Syria has told Egypt's foreign minister it opposed the creation of any new international force in Lebanon, but would not be averse to the expansion of the current UN force there, widely regarded as ineffectual, officials said Monday.
"The Syrians are talking about expanding the UNIFIL," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters in Cairo, referring to the widely criticized UN force created in 1978 to restore stability in the area.
He acknowledged to reporters that Syria did oppose the sending of any new international force, as the United States and others are pushing, to police the border region.
Privately, diplomats in Cairo said that Aboul Gheit had advised Syrian President Bashar Assad, during a meeting Sunday in Damascus, that Syria should not voice opposition if an international force was sent to southern Lebanon.
"Egypt is trying to convince Assad not to stand in the way of a diplomatic solution," said one diplomat.