Italy to take command of UNIFIL

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Friday, August 25, 2006

The European leaders who met on Thursday in Brussels announced that Italy would be likely to take command of the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL), but France is to remain in command until February 2007.

Poland, Spain, Belgium and France are to send soldiers with Switzerland and Great Britain sending military expert units to Lebanon. Germany will not be sending land troops due to historical reasons.

Ireland called for 9000 soldiers to be sent soon, whereas Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French Foreign Minister, maintained that only 7000 are to be sent. The French President Jacques Chirac declared during a conference with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel that there not more than 15,000 "blue helmets" will be stationed in Lebanon, calling this number "definitely excessive".

The Israeli Prime Minister's spokesman Avi Pazner, speaking after the French announcement of sending 2000 soldiers, said "11,000 soldiers would still be missing".

France did not officially oppose this decision.