Turkey to vote on sending troops to Lebanon

Turkish lawmakers were to vote Tuesday on sending troops to Lebanon as part of an expanded UN peacekeeping force, with the government strongly supporting deployment but Turkish public opinion divided. Protesters gathered around the capital Tuesday morning, hours before the parliament was to convene to debate and vote on the measure. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has devoted much of the past few days to shoring up support among skeptical lawmakers from his own party, arguing that contributing troops to monitor the shaky cease-fire between Israel and Hizbullah was a moral duty that would contribute to regional stability and raise Turkey's profile on the international stage. "We believe that we have to be there to make Turkey's presence felt," he said Monday. Opposition parties have vowed to vote against the measure, but Erdogan needs the support only of his own party for it to pass. If approved, the Turkish contribution to the UN mission is expected to include a naval task force to patrol the eastern Mediterranean and prevent arms smuggling, as well as officers to train Lebanese army troops.