|Advance French force lands at Beirut Port
|Deployment brings un presence to 3,350 troops
More than 200 French military engineers arrived at Beirut port on Saturday, the advance group of a battalion to bolster a UN force set up to keep the peace between Israel and Hizbullah. "They are the forward group of a French battalion which is due to arrive next week," said Alexander Ivanko, spokesman for the UNIFIL peacekeepers.
The French troops arriving on Saturday brought the total UN force to around 3,350, Ivanko said. Between 200 and 300 French logistics specialists and engineers disembarked at the port, offloading six armored carriers and 100 trucks.
The UN force could reach 5,000 once the rest of the 700-strong French battalion arrives next week and a Spanish contingent of around 900 troops reach Lebanon, he said.
But security sources say logistics problems, including painstaking de-mining operations in South Lebanon, could delay the actual deployment of the peacekeepers.
Pakistan said on Saturday it would send troops to help clear mines and unexploded ordnance in the area. The size of the contingent would be decided in a day or two, a government spokeswoman said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told reporters on Saturday: "The government of Pakistan today [Saturday] made a decision to send Pakistan army engineers to Lebanon on the request of the Lebanese Prime Minister, with whom I met during my recent visit to Beirut ... We are sending army engineers - they are in the hundreds - under the UN umbrella."
Meanwhile, Britain is to provide a destroyer warship as part of the United Nations-backed peacekeeping operation off the Lebanese coast, the Ministry of Defense said Saturday.
"The UK is pleased to be able to assist the UN by providing HMS York to support its Lebanon maritime operation," a Ministry of Defense spokeswoman told AFP.
She could not specify whether the destroyer was in place off the Lebanese coast in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The HMS York, a Type 42 destroyer, was one of the first Royal Navy ships on the scene to assist in the evacuation of British citizens from Lebanon at the beginning of the conflict between Israel and Hizbullah in July.
Type 42 destroyers, which have a complement of 287 personnel and are armed with a Lynx helicopter, form the backbone of the Royal Navy's anti-air capability.
They can operate independently in patrol and boarding operations, and recently enforced UN embargos in the Gulf and the Adriatic Sea.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese Army's Sixth Brigade continued its deployment in South Lebanon's western sector and set up several bases in the area over the weekend.
Israeli maintenance teams have also finished building an electronic fence along the borders between the Metulla settlement and the half-occupied town of Ghajar. Sources told The Daily Star that the Israeli forces re-established bases in the hills facing the eastern sector in Talet Ouwaida, Taybeh and Talet al-Hamames. The forces are setting boobytraps during the night, the source said.
The Daily Star