|Paris agrees to naval patrols, Turkish MPs approve troop deployment, Lebanese Army reaches Bint Jbeil
|France said on Tuesday that it had agreed in principle to Lebanon's request for the French Navy to help monitor the Lebanese coast as Israeli troops withdrew from five more Southern villages and the Lebanese Army began to move in.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Parliament voted during an extraordinary session to authorize the government to contribute to the UN peacekeeping mission in the South, despite vehement opposition by the public and some lawmakers. Deputy Speaker Nevzat Pakdil said 340 of the 533 MPs present in the 550-seat House voted for the deployment; 192 voted against and one abstained.
French President Jacques Chirac "gave a response that was in principle positive" after the request was passed on to him in a telephone conversation with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday night, a presidential spokesman said. The deployment of foreign navies is designed to persuade Israel to lift a blockade of Lebanon's ports.
However, Chirac's spokesman said that details of an eventual deployment, including rules of engagement, still had to be worked out.
Annan proposed that France, Italy and Greece patrol the Lebanese coast for the next two weeks, until German forces could take over, Le Monde newspaper quoted the secretary general as saying.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday he was still waiting for a formal request to contribute to the expanded UN force.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei insisted on Tuesday that the coastal patrol would be a "provisional measure" until German assets arrive.
In South Lebanon, a UNIFIL statement said the villages Israeli troops withdrew from included Beit Lif, Al-Qawzah, Dibel, Ain Ibl and Mhaibeb, all located in the southeast corner of Lebanon near the larger town of Bint Jbeil.
"The UNIFIL Ghanaian Battalion established seven new checkpoints and carried out intensive patrolling in the area, confirming that [Israeli forces] were no longer present there," UNFIL said.
Afterward, the Lebanese Army deployed in the towns of Al-Qawzah, Aitaroun, Ain Ibel, Bint Jbeil, Yaroun and Ainata, where residents gathered to welcome the troops.
Lebanese troops also deployed in the town of Maroun al-Ras, scene of fierce clashes between Israeli troops and Hizbullah during the war.
"The presence of the army will reassure the Southern residents," Bint Jbeil's qaimaqam, Ibrahim Darwish, told The Daily Star.
"Nobody can imagine how happy we are about the deployment of the Lebanese Army here," Zeinab Baydoun of Bint Jbeil said.
The army has taken over about 80 percent of South Lebanon since it began deploying there just three days after the truce on August 14, a military source said.
Italian Defense Minister Arturo Parisi said on Tuesday that Israel should be able to leave South Lebanon within 10 days, when 5,000 UN peacekeepers are expected to be in place.
"We believe that this condition can be satisfied within 10 days," he told reporters.
Parisi also warned that the failure of the expanded mission would be a "grave blow" to the United Nations.
"A failure of the mission would represent a grave blow to the path Italy has bet on. We have bet on the United Nations," he told reporters.
He mentioned a resumption of violence as a cause that would make the UNIFIL mission unsuccessful.
In Ankara, ahead of Parliament's vote, thousands of protesters took to the streets to urge MPs to reject government plans to send troops to Lebanon. Several demonstrators were detained by police.
Many MPs are concerned that the UN force would mainly serve Israeli and US interests and that soldiers may have to fire at fellow Muslims.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul earlier told legislators that sending troops to Lebanon would help bring peace and stability to the region, a move that would ultimately benefit Turkey.
"By sending soldiers there, we're taking a great risk," Onur Oymen of the main opposition Republican People's Party told lawmakers. "We will face the threat of involvement in clashes with uncertain ends."
The Daily Star