August 19, 2006

France urges clear mandate for UN force in Lebanon

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Jacques Chirac on
Saturday stressed the need for a clearer mandate for an
enlarged United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon in talks
with leaders from several countries, his office said.

His diplomatic offensive, partly to explain Paris's
decision to send only 200 additional troops to bolster the
existing U.N. force, came the same day around 50 French
peacekeepers arrived in south Lebanon. More were due to leave
France on Sunday.

Chirac spoke by telephone with Italian Prime Minister
Romano Prodi, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen of Finland, which
holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

The president "insisted on the vital need for balance in
the composition of the force, which should reflect the
commitment of the whole international community and, in
particular, of European countries," Chirac's office said in a

In a conversation later on Saturday with U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the two men agreed "on the
importance of deploying without delay the first elements of
this force, as France has started doing," his office added.

Chirac told Annan the support for the deployment of the
Lebanese armed forces was essential for the success of the
implementation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701.

The resolution called for a truce and a peacekeeping force
to help the Lebanese army supervise the pullout of Israeli
troops from southern Lebanon.

Washington and the United Nations, which had hoped France
would form the backbone of the expanded U.N. force, have been
disappointed at the number of troops France has committed so

Chirac has left open the possibility that Paris will send
more troops to the U.N. force in Lebanon, which is eventually
expected to be a 15,000-strong outfit capable of policing the
peace between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas that followed a
month-long war.

Chirac spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday,
stressing the need to make clear the mission's rules of
engagement and chain of command, his office said.