NEWS

Navy force to Lebanon endorsed

Greece will contribute naval forces to the United Nations-backed peacekeeping effort in Lebanon but will not send ground forces to the war-torn country, the Government Council on Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) confirmed yesterday. Greece’s contribution is to include a navy frigate, a helicopter, a landing craft, specialist officers and a diving unit, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said. The landing craft is due to play a key role in transferring units of the international peacekeeping force, which is set to reach 15,000 troops. The purpose of the Greek mission will be twofold: to conduct military transfers by sea from Cyprus to Lebanon and to inspect vessels bound for Lebanese ports, Roussopoulos said. Greek forces are already stationed in the region but will need about 10 days to group and mobilize, according to KYSEA, which said that additional navy forces may be sent to the region if necessary. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis arrived yesterday in Nicosia, where she is beginning a tour of the Middle East «to assess the situation from up close.» Bakoyannis is due in Beirut this morning for a tour of razed districts and for talks with Lebanese government officials before traveling on to Jordan. Asked why Bakoyannis’s trip is not scheduled to include a stopover in Syria, Roussopoulos stressed that Athens’s ties with Damascus are very good and appealed to reporters to stop blowing the issue out of proportion.