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No official decision to reduce number of French troops in south, report says.

Lebanon's Army Commander Jean Kahwaji has not received any information from French or Lebanese authorities as to whether France will decrease the number of its troops serving with the UN Interim Force in Southern Lebanon (UNIFIL), the Beirut daily AN NAHAR reported Tuesday. The daily said that the army chief himself has confirmed this news in light of statements made by some Lebanese politicians that the French contingent is either about to withdraw from the South or reduce the number of its soldiers after the recent security developments in southern Lebanon.

On December 9, a blast wounded five French peacekeepers in southern Lebanon and stirred local and international condemnation. The daily cited an unnamed military source as saying that France has not officially informed the Lebanese army if it will to reduce the number of its peacekeepers, adding that nothing has been said about this issue except for "claims made by the media not more."

What About the Role of Army?

The daily said that if UNIFIL makes any decision to change its mission in southern Lebanon, then this requires the Lebanese army to raise the number of its soldiers in this volatile region, where Lebanon's military institution, in coordination with UNIFIL, seeks to preserve security in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

However, the daily added that the Lebanese army is not ready to deploy additional troops to southern Lebanon. The daily asked whether the army will be able to pull out some soldiers present inside Lebanon, or along the Syrian-Lebanese border, in order to fill up the gap that may be caused by any decision to withdraw UNIFIL troops. AN NAHAR pointed out that in order for the Lebanese army to accomplish its mission as per the requirements of UNSCR 1701 in the South, it needs to strengthen its capabilities and increase its military arsenal, which is not currently possible.
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Publication:The Daily Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Dec 20, 2011
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