Photo: Eli Elgarat
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her Greek counterpart Theodora Bakoyannis
Photo: Eli Elgarat
Photo: Reuters
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Photo: Reuters
Livni: Time for Syria to free Lebanon
Foreign minister Livni tells Greek counterpart that Syria should respect Lebanon's sovereignty

In light of France's announcement on Thursday that it will boost its contribution of troops to a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, European Union foreign ministers will meet in Brussels on Friday to discuss European contribution to the 15,000-strong force.


Greek Foreign Minister Theodora Bakoyannis met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Tel Aviv on Friday morning before head to Brussels.


FM Livni with Greek counterpart Theodora Bakoyannis (Photo: Eli Elgranat)


The two discussed the deployment of the UN force in Lebanon and the ceasefire terms set by Security Council Resolution 1701, which called
for an immediate secession of acts of aggression between Israel and Hizbullah.


Livni warned in a press conference held with Bakoyannis after the meeting that the Israel Defense Forces will withdraw from southern Lebanon once the international force deploys across Lebanon with the Lebanese army and once an arms embargo on Hizbullah is imposed as demanded in the resolution.


Bakoyannis said Athens will contribute troops and equipment to the force.


Livni said that Syria should respect Lebanese sovereignty and allow the Lebanese government to impose its authority across the country. "Time has come that the Syria gives Lebanon the freedom and ability to be an independent and sovereign country," she said.


"I expect – and believe the international community too – Syria to respect resolutions adopted by the Security Council," she added.


Efforts intensify to assemble UN force

The foreign minister noted that Syrian President Bashar Assad was not happy with Resolution 1701, which calls for an arms embargo on Hizbullah.


United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will take part in the meeting of EU foreign ministers before leaving for a trip to the Middle East which includes stops in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Beirut, Damascus and Tehran.


Bakoyannis said Athens will contribute troops and equipment to the UN force but gave no details of the number of Greek soldiers it is willing to commit.


Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut said Friday his government is poised to contribute troops to the expanded UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon,.


"There is great coherence between the positions of (Foreign Minister Karel) De Gucht, the prime minister and the other members of the government to send troops to Lebanon," he told VRT network.


Annan said that his meeting the EU foreign ministers "will be a positive first step in the creation of a multinational force in Lebanon."


When asked if the UN will manage to gather and consolidate an army of 15,000 soldiers, Annan said: "Not today, but the first steps towards it will be made today. There will be 15,000 soldiers."


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