Israel accepts Indonesians in UN force

Muslim nation to send 1,000 soldiers; Spain agrees to send up to 1,100 troops.

south lebanon map UNIFIL (photo credit: UNIFIL)
south lebanon map UNIFIL
(photo credit: UNIFIL)
Israel has dropped its objections to Indonesia joining the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, and discussions are underway as to when Jakarta would send a planned contingent of 1,000 troops, a UN official said Friday. After talks that included UN officials, Israel reversed its stance that it would not allow troops from Indonesia because the two nations did not have diplomatic ties, the official said. Early Saturday morning Indonesia's foreign minister said that Indonesia would send peacekeepers to Lebanon by the end of September. Earlier Friday, Spain's government agreed to contribute up to 1,100 troops to the UN force. Under the plan, Spain would lead one of the UN's multinational brigades in Lebanon. The decision was made at a weekly cabinet meeting and is expected to be approved in parliament at a vote scheduled for next Thursday. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke with Spanish Prime Minister Luis Rodriguez Zapatero by telephone on Friday and thanked him for his government's decision. Addressing internal opposition to Spanish participation in the UN force, Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Friday that the deployment was legitimate because it has a UN mandate, both Israel and Hizbullah have agreed to a peacekeeping force, and European troops will form the core of the force. "It is an operation that falls within international law," she told a news conference. "We are convinced that current circumstances support the proposal we are making because it is a peace operation in a country that has been destroyed." The deployment will be done in two phases, she said. Assuming parliament approves the mission, Spanish marines would travel immediately to Lebanon and then be replaced in November by other Spanish troops that will take command of a multinational brigade of the emerging UN force, the deputy prime minister said without specifying which countries would fall under Spanish command. Defense Minister Jose Antonio Alonso is to give details of the deployment in Parliament next Thursday before the vote.