Middle East


From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


And I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, politics and religion. A new study says most Americans think they are not mixing very well.

BRAND: First this. The multinational peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon may finally be coming together. Today United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the European Union will provide more than half of the 15,000 troops he wants.

CHADWICK: Assembling this force has been difficult. Italy earlier agreed to send up to 3,000 soldiers. Belgium, Spain, and other nations will send smaller numbers. The French will continue to command the force known as UNIFIL. They will also send a total of 2,000 troops to southern Lebanon.

BRAND: Earlier today I spoke with Nicholas Blanford. He's a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor in Beirut. He said that the U.N. troops coming into southern Lebanon are going to have different instructions than peacekeepers had there in the past.

Mr. NICHOLAS BLANFORD (Christian Science Monitor): The way it's going to work is that they have a tougher use of military force from now on. Let's give an example. If a UNIFIL patrol comes across some Hezbollah fighters who are armed and those Hezbollah fighters refuse to hand over those weapons, then the UNIFIL patrol would be entitled to shoot first if it so thought it was necessary. Beforehand, UNIFIL could only return fire if it comes under fire first.

So it has increased its ability to use force incrementally, but I suspect that the UNIFIL will be very reluctant to actually use that on the ground because the last thing it wants to do, and bearing in mind there's been a very bleak history of peacekeeping missions in Lebanon over the past 20 years or so, the last thing that the UNIFIL will want to do will end up in regular firefights with Hezbollah guerrillas on the ground.

So this has been an issue that has been thrashed out, particularly between Kofi Annan and the Europeans, in the last day or two.

So we're bearing in mind that if you have 15,000 international troops, you've also got another 15,000 Lebanese troops, so that would be a total force, if you like, of around 30,000 troops. A much smaller number would be able to do the job quite possibly more efficiently.

BRAND: Hmm. Well, so it's not a case of better flood the area with U.N. troops to make sure that fighting doesn't resume?

Mr. BLANFORD: I think that what the U.N. would like to see ideally is a smaller number of true contributing countries but much larger troop contributions. What is going to happen on the ground is, there's going to be a very typically Lebanese arrangement whereby the stability of the area is not down to the number of troops you can flood into the area, be they international peacekeepers or Lebanese troops; it's down to the quiet, behind-the-scenes hammering out of agreements and understandings between Hezbollah and between the Lebanese government, essentially.

So the Hezbollah guys, many of whom live in these border villages anyway, will continue to live in these border villages. Their weapons will remain in south Lebanon, doubtless, but they will be hidden away from sight. They won't return to the border itself to establish a series of observation posts that they had. The whole military presence, if you like, which was already quite discreet, will be almost nonexistent down there.

And there will be a basic understanding that if Lebanese troops or UNIFIL troops come across a couple of Hezbollah fighters and they happen to have weapons with them, that the Hezbollah fighters will hand over those weapons to UNIFIL or the Lebanese army, and quite probably will get those weapons returned to them through back channels later on. It's not honoring Resolution 1701 to the nth degree. It's sort of honoring it in spirit. And the bottom line of course is to maintain stability down in south Lebanon. That's the real essential key.

BRAND: Nicholas Blanford is a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor based in Beirut, Lebanon. Thank you, Nicholas.

Mr. BLANFORD: Sure, you're welcome.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from