NEWS

Greece seeks Lebanon role

Diplomatic efforts to push for an end to hostilities between Israel and Lebanon are set to intensify and it looks increasingly likely that Greece will be one of the countries supplying personnel and equipment for the international force set to maintain the ceasefire, sources said yesterday. The Greek navy is likely to play a key role in transporting equipment and soldiers, as well as taking part in other sea operations. Sources say that there is a possibility that Greek soldiers will also be among the ground troops that could be sent into a buffer zone between the two warring countries. The Greek navy has already been a major player in evacuating refugees from Beirut and now in ferrying humanitarian aid to the Lebanese capital. The success with which these operations have been carried out has left a good impression with the international community and marked the Greek navy as a potentially useful element of any international stabilizing force. Sources revealed yesterday that the naval ships are prepared for war and have been given orders to return fire if they are fired upon. Cyprus indicated yesterday that it was also willing to take part in an international force in Lebanon. The director of the Cypriot Foreign Ministry’s European Affairs Office, Ambassador Alexandros Zinon, said that if there was an immediate ceasefire and other European Union countries were willing to participate in the force, Nicosia would also take part. Zinon said, however, that any peacekeeping force should have a clear mandate from the United Nations Security Council. Meanwhile, the Cypriot Foreign Ministry said that more than 54,000 foreigners had arrived on the island from Lebanon as part of the evacuation process since fighting broke out last month. «There is a need for other partners, all partners, to open their borders to people seeking visas for EU countries,» said Zinon. «Cyprus on its own cannot accommodate people who may not have the means to cover a temporary or longer-term stay,» he added.