Australian FM: Int'l presence in Lebanon 'suicide'

Sending an international peacekeeping force into southern Lebanon without a commitment that Hizbullah guerillas will withdraw from the area would amount to a "suicide mission," Australia's foreign minister said Thursday. Alexander Downer, speaking at a conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Malaysia, told reporters that forging a peaceful settlement in the region was a necessary prerequisite for the deployment of international forces - and any Australian role in a peacekeeping force. "There's no point in sending an international peacekeeping force on a suicide mission," Downer said. "It's only in the environment of a peace settlement that you can send in peacekeepers, otherwise of course you're going to send them into the path of destruction." There is no current plan to deploy peacekeepers to southern Lebanon, where fighting continues to rage, but Australian forces have traditionally been a key component of such forces.