Annan to recruit for int'l Lebanon force

Force, not yet mandated, meant to help Lebanese take control of southern region.

kofi annan 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
kofi annan 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday has called for a meeting to be held on Monday, convening representatives of countries that could contribute troops to an international force on the Lebanon-Israel border. France, Britain and other Security Council members are pressing for a resolution demanding an immediate halt to the fighting between Israel and Hizbullah fighters, and establishing a force to help the Lebanese army take control of southern Lebanon, where the Islamic group is based. Diplomats said informal discussions were expected to continue over the weekend and the council could begin discussing a draft resolution in earnest next week. But the council first needs to know which countries, if any, are prepared to provide troops. "Obviously it will be preliminary discussions because we do not have the mandate of the Security Council yet," Annan said. The invitation list is expected to include contributors to the current 2,000-member UN force in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, and the 25 members of the European Union, which has publicly offered to help. France, Italy, Germany, Ireland and Turkey have said they are considering joining a UN-run multinational force. Diplomats in the continent's other capitals are discussing whether to add their countries to the roster ahead of a hastily arranged EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday. UN diplomats said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has let it be known that she wants a meeting of Security Council foreign ministers on Wednesday or Thursday in New York to push a new resolution. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made. Annan told reporters that he too knew of the possibility of such a meeting. "I first heard about it when we were in Rome, that there may be a need for a Council meeting at the ministerial level, probably sometime next week," he said Friday. The conference in Rome on Wednesday brought together Rice, Annan and diplomats from European and moderate Arab countries to discuss the Mideast crisis.