Qatar to send troops to Lebanon

Qatar Airways plane permitted to land in Beirut despite air blockade.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
A Qatar Airways plane landed at Beirut airport on Monday carrying 142 passengers - the first commercial flight from the country to Lebanon since the war. Israel said it gave permission for the flight and more were expected. The Airbus 320 landed at Rafik Hariri International Airport in the first of what the national carrier of Qatar said would be daily commercial flights from Doha to Beirut. An IDF spokesman said the Qatar Airways flight was coordinated with Israel and was the fourth Qatari flight to land with Israeli permission in Beirut since Friday - an apparent reference to past aid flights, as this was the first known regularly scheduled commercial flight from Qatar. Earlier Monday, Qatar announced that it would send a small detachment of 200 to 300 troops to the UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, making the tiny Persian Gulf state the first Arab country to commit soldiers to the force. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said the contribution was an attempt by Qatar "to tell the world of the Arab presence, even modestly, in this force and to tell Israel that we believe in this decision and so we want to contribute in implementing it." The announcement came after Sheik Hamad held talks with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Doha. Sheik Hamad did not say when the troops will deploy, but insisted that the peacekeeping force must have "specific and clear duties." Annan, who is currently on a Mideast tour, thanked Qatar for its contribution. Under a cease-fire plan reached after 34 days of fighting between Hizbullah and Israel, a strengthened UN peacekeeping force of 15,000 troops was expected to deploy in Lebanon. The force, known as UNIFIL, is to deploy to assert control over the Hizbullah stronghold south of the Litani River and to prevent arms from reaching the Shi'ite guerrillas. The first large batch of peacekeepers arrived in Lebanon on Sunday, with soldiers and marines from two Italian regiments reaching their bases in the south of the country. Nearly 900 Italian soldiers have arrived. Mainly Muslim Indonesia announced Sunday it will send up to 1,000 soldiers by month's end after Israel dropped objections to its participation in the force. The US, Europe and Israel have been eager to have Muslim troops among the peacekeepers, but Israel had opposed Indonesian participation because it does not have relations with the Jewish state. Turkey's prime minister, meanwhile, was trying to ensure that parliament approves his government's promise to send troops amid strong public opposition.