German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that Germany would not send combat troops as part
of the contemplated international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, but may offer naval forces to help patrol the country's coastline.
Merkel said Germany was looking at "naval security" as part of its effort to support the force, after meeting with parliamentary leaders. Parliament must approve any deployment and the German government has warned it can't make a concrete offer until rules of engagement - or when service personnel can shoot - are clarified.
Earlier Thursday, French President Jacques Chirac announced that France will immediately double to 400 its contingent in the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon.
Chirac's office made the statement after Chirac's phone conversation with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. France currently leads the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon, and has been closely watched over its role in an enhanced peacekeeping force in the region.
In the conversation, Chirac said France "will immediately double its current contribution by sending 200 men, bringing its contingent to 400," the statement said.
The proposal will be presented at a UN meeting in New York later Thursday designed to flesh out which countries will participate in the
Chirac told Annan that France is ready to command the strengthened force, which is expected to work with about 15,000 Lebanese troops to restore peace to southern Lebanon after more than a month of violence between Israeli troops and the Lebanese-based Hizbullah militia.
France also is prepared to keep 1,700 troops mobilized in the region, who in recent weeks have been evacuating French and other foreign nationals from Lebanon and sending in humanitarian aid from warships and other vessels off the Lebanese coast in the Mediterranean.
Repeated demandsThose forces have supported the UN mission during the crisis, Chirac's office noted.
Chirac echoed repeated demands from French officials that the United Nations clarify "the mission, the rules of engagement and the resources" of the boosted UN force.
He also said the choice of contingents should reflect "the commitment of all the international community."
Brunei, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, and Turkey are among other countries that said they could commit troops to the expanded UNIFIL.
UN diplomats and officials had said France's reticence in providing the number of troops it would offer held up announcements of commitments from other countries.
A report in the French daily Le Monde said UN officials believed it would be "devastating" if France gave a small contribution and would discourage other countries from offering sizable contingents.
Hundreds of people have died in fighting that broke out more than a month ago between Israeli troops and Hizbullah fighters in Lebanon, and hundreds of thousands more were
forced to flee.
Lebanese troops deployed south of the Litani River on Thursday, a key provision of the UN ceasefire plan that ended the fighting. The deployment marks a first step toward extending government control in a Hizbullah stronghold where Lebanese troops have largely kept out of
for four decades.
Officials hope UNIFIL troops can move in quickly to back up the Lebanese troops.