Annan backs new UN force in Lebanon

Says "stabilization force" must be bigger than current presence of 2,000.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Urging the international community to "end the fighting and the killing," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan backed a Lebanon stabilization force Tuesday stressing it must be bigger and better armed than the UN's current force of about 2,000. Speaking to reporters after discussing the Middle East at the European Commission, Annan said the UN Security Council would have to work out the proposed force's size and rules of engagement. He said such a force should be "larger than the 2,000-man force we have there (and) have a different concept of operation and, hopefully, a different mandate from the Security Council that will allow them to operate" in southern Lebanon. He said that would "help stabilize the situation whilst it gives the government of Lebanon time to organize itself (and) extend its authority throughout the territory, including the south" where Hizbullah militants have built up their military capabilities. The deployment of the stabilization force would also give the government in Beirut time to "sort out the question of disarmament of the militia" in south Lebanon, Annan said. He said he expects European and other countries to supply troops for the force, saying "It is urgent that the international community acts to make a difference on the ground." Standing next to Annan at a news conference, Javier Solana, the EU's foreign and security chief, said, "We will be ready to help." The current UN force in South Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, was created in 1978 to boost the Beirut government's authority there, but it proved to be powerless. Annan said a new UN force would have "different capabilities," suggesting a much more powerful military presence. Israel and the Lebanon-based Hizbullah oppose a new force. British Prime Minister Tony Blair first mentioned such a force at the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg Monday as the "only way we're going to get a cessation of hostilities" between Israel and Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon.