NEWS

Athens is unsure on troops for UN force

Greece is unlikely to send a large number of troops to Lebanon as part of the United Nations peacekeeping force, Athens said yesterday ahead of a four-day trip to the Middle East by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis. Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said that Greece is considering contributing a frigate, a helicopter, a specialized team of divers and a limited number of officers to help in the operation of the UN force’s command center. However, Koumoutsakos said Greek participation in the stabilizing force with land troops is «beyond the intentions» of the government. «A number of important details and characteristics of the [peacekeeping] force have not been cleared up,» said Koumoutsakos. «Such as the terms of reference, its operational structure and the terms of engagement.» The UN wants to send 15,000 troops to the region but intends to initially dispatch 3,500 peacekeepers to southern Lebanon within the coming week. Koumoutsakos confirmed that after talks with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos today, Bakoyannis will meet with the leaders of Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. She will also visit Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman. Greece will take over the monthlong presidency of the UN Security Council next month and wants all sides to respect the fragile ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel, Koumoutsakos said.