- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A United Nations international force is expected to land in Lebanon within two weeks, but analysts said yesterday that U.N. troops will be unable to disarm Hezbollah against its will.

“We would like to see 3,000 to 3,500 troops within 10 days to two weeks,” Hedi Annabi, assistant secretary-general for U.N. peacekeeping operations, told reporters in New York.

“That would be ideal to help consolidate the cessation of hostilities and start the process of withdrawal and deployment of the Lebanese forces,” Mr. Annabi said.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the current U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) yesterday sent out several patrols in its area of operations to assess the situation.

“There were no reports of incidents or breaches” of the cease-fire, which went into effect at 8 a.m. Monday, Mr. Dujarric said.

He said UNIFIL commander Gen. Alain Pellegrini had met with senior officers of the Lebanese and Israeli armies yesterday to discuss implementation of and compliance with the U.N. resolution to end the cross-border conflict.

Gen. Pellegrini likely will lead the enhanced international force, Mr. Dujarric said.

“There’s no plans that I’m aware of to replace Gen. Pellegrini, who has done an outstanding job,” the spokesman said.

Under the resolution, the 2,000-strong UNIFIL force would be augmented to 15,000 and about 15,000 Lebanese forces would move toward southern Lebanon, establishing authority over the region and allowing Israeli troops to gradually withdraw.

But few think that the combined force will be able to forcibly disarm Hezbollah, which has proven a much tougher foe than expected.

“This force is not going to be able to force it to disarm any more than the Israeli army was able to do it — it really is contingent on a certain amount of strategic consent from Hezbollah,” said William Durch of the Henry L. Stimson Center.

Kamal Nawash of the Free Muslims Coalition said Hezbollah — which considers itself the victor in the conflict that started July 12 — probably would concentrate on rebuilding. Iran, Hezbollah’s patron, would foot the bill, he said.

“Hezbollah does not have to fire another shot,” Mr. Nawash said.

“They did what no one else has done: They caused major damage to the image of the Israeli military, and they have shown that in one-to-one combat, they can take on the Israeli military and win.”

Mr. Annan has been working the phones since Saturday to get world leaders to commit to creating a robust international force, but there have been no formal commitments, Mr. Dujarric said.

C. David Welch, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said the U.S. would send a senior interagency team to the United Nations today and tomorrow to help shape the enhanced UNIFIL force.

The United Nations, he said, “is on a fast track to try and supplement and enhance” the force in Lebanon. “They are meeting every day in preparation for that.”

The current UNIFIL force has troops from China, France, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy, Poland and Ukraine. Mr. Welch said other countries, including Turkey, might participate in the enhanced force.

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