25th May 2019

France makes small commitment to UN Lebanon force

Several countries have offered troops for a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon but France, which agreed to head the force, has only committed a small amount of soldiers amid concern about the lack of clarity over the mandate.

French president Jacques Chirac pledged in the UN on Thursday (17 August) to send 400 troops to the region after talks with UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

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The offer, much less than the overall commitment of up to 5,000 troops that the UN had been hoping for - came after French daily Le Monde on the same day published an article saying that France only planned to send 200 soldiers.

France took the diplomatic lead in drafting a UN Security Council resolution on a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah but has become increasingly concerned about the exact rules of engagement for the troops.

According to Le Monde, Paris wants "guarantees" for its soldiers and is worried it will face reprisals from Iran and Syria - supporters of Hezbollah.

On Wednesday defence minister Michele Alliot Marie said that France would be prepared to lead the force until February but wanted a clearer mandate.

Speaking after the UN meeting yesterday, Mark Malloch Brown, the deputy secretary general of the UN, said "We had hoped France would be able to do more,"

"While I had feared the French announcement might cast a shadow over the meeting, it did not deter others from coming forward with offers. That is why we come out of the meeting relatively optimistic", he continued according to media reports

However, several EU countries are also waiting for the final outcome of UN negotiations on the terms of engagement.

Mr Malloch Brown said the mandate would be "robust but not offensive".

"This is a prudent set of rules of engagement which is non-offensive in character, but calls on you to use force if necessary,'' he said referring to the UN mission. "If they don't voluntarily disarm when confronted by our troops, then we will employ force to disarm them.''

Of the EU countries, Italy (pledging the most significant amount of troops at up to 3,000), Spain, Portugal, Denmark, the UK and Ireland are among those indicating they will play a role.

Germany which had a long domestic discussion about whether it should put soldiers into the region has now decided to send a big enough maritime task force to the Lebanon coast to be able to patrol and control it alone, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Internationally, Bangladesh (pledging 2,000 soldiers), Indonesia, Malaysia and Nepal have all offered troops bringing the total troops committed to 3,500. The UN is hoping for deployment within two weeks.


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