President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that France will send a total of 2,000 soldiers for the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. In a nationally televised address, the French leader said France will increase its deployment from an already announced 400 soldiers, and hopes to retain command of the force. He said the United Nations had provided the guarantees France had sought involving the mandate of the force.
"Two extra battalions will go on to the ground to extend our numbers within UNIFIL," Chirac said. "Two thousand French soldiers are thus placed under blue helmets in Lebanon," he added.
The United Nations is expected to hold another formal meeting Monday for countries that have expressed interest in contributing troops to Lebanon, a U.N. official said, according to the AP. The United Nations is hoping to nail down concrete numbers at that time so the deployment can begin quickly, the U.N. official said.
EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet Friday in Brussels to discuss the force. Pressure on the Europeans has grown because Israel has rejected offers of participation from Malaysia, Bangladesh and Indonesia — predominantly Muslim countries that do not recognize the Jewish state.