Israel asks Italy to lead peacekeeping force

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday asked Italy to head a United Nations peace force in Lebanon, and to deploy troops to oversee Lebanon's border with Syria, which Israel says is smuggling arms to Hizbullah, Olmert's office said in a statement. The statement said that in a telephone conversation with Olmert, Italian Premier Romano Prodi said his country intended to send a "significant military force." In an interview with Rome daily Il Messaggero published Sunday, a leader of Prodi's coalition said Italy would be willing to lead the proposed 15,000-member force if asked by the United Nations.