Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU diplomats call for Muslim component in peacekeeping troops in Lebanon

Jakarta Post - 30 August 2006

BRUSSELS (AP): European Union diplomats on Tuesday called for Muslim nations to make substantial contributions to the peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, despite Israel's refusal to allow soldiers from countries that do not recognize it to take part.

EU diplomats said offers from Muslim countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh were important for the U.N. force's success.

Bangladesh has volunteered about 1,800 troops and Indonesia and Malaysia about 900 each. But Israel has not yet agreed to let them join as peacekeepers because none of the three recognizes Israel.

"As broad a spectrum of countries as possible should contribute, including Muslim countries," said Teemu Tanner, chairman of the EU's Political and Security Committee, which handles crisis management issues.

"The offers from Malaysia and Indonesia are very important," the Finnish diplomat told the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee. "This is a U.N. force, we must give it unequivocal support."

Some EU lawmakers said they also were concerned about including countries that did not recognize Israel.

"What's going to stop them from turning a blind eye to the rearmament of Hizbollah?" said Charles Tannock, a Conservative from Britain.

The U.N. Security Council resolution that ended 34 days of fighting between Hezbollah militants based in southern Lebanon and Israeli forces calls for the deployment of 15,000 peacekeepers to work with an equal number of Lebanese troops in patrolling the border region when Israel withdraws.

European nation initially were hesitant to commit troops, but agreed Friday to provide up to 6,900 troops, about half the force.

Turkey's parliament was expected to vote next week on a resolution to send peacekeepers to Lebanon, officials said Tuesday. The Cabinet in Turkey, NATO's only Muslim member and a country with close ties to Israel and Arab states, agreed in principle Monday to contribute to an expanded international force