5 Settembre 2006

Italy says failure of Lebanon mission would be ‘grave blow’

Autore: Marta Falconi
Fonte: Associated Press

ROME – Italian Defense Minister Arturo Parisi said Tuesday that the failure of an international mission in Lebanon would be a “grave blow” to the United Nations and might prevent the future deployment of peacekeepers in other conflict zones.

“A failure of the mission would represent a grave blow to the path Italy has bet on. We have bet on the United Nations” Parisi told reporters. Its failure would “create the conditions making new actions impossible.”         

Parisi has warned in the past that the UNIFIL mission in southern Lebanon would be long and risky. On Tuesday he mentioned a resumption of violence as a cause that would make the UNIFIL mission unsuccessful.

“Fear is always there. The risk that Italy is running concerns the lives of its own soldiers” Parisi said. “But the risk is also political.”         

The minister said that at stake was the “the capability of the U.N. to present itself as an organization for peacekeeping operations.”         

“We cannot but consider a failure (of the mission) as a failure of this path” he said.

But Parisi has also been among the main backers of strong Italian participation in efforts to help the Lebanese army enforce a cease-fire after a month of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militias in southern Lebanon.

“Our objective is the stabilization of the truce and a real and stable start (to putting in place) the conditions for peace” the minister said during a news conference at the Foreign Press Association.

Parisi said he expected UNIFIL to reach 5,000 troops within about 10 days.

More than 800 Italian troops had reached Lebanon by Monday, bringing the total number of U.N. forces in Lebanon to 3,250, including the 2,000 troops who had been there before the fighting and 250 French troops who arrived last week.

Italy has pledged to put some 2,500 soldiers on the ground by the end of the year, the largest contingent pledged so far.

Parisi, a longtime aide of Premier Romano Prodi, also stressed that the military mission was just one element in the strategy _ including political and diplomatic efforts _ to bring stability to the Middle East.
Under the cease-fire plan, 15,000 Lebanese soldiers are also to be deployed to assert control over the Hezbollah stronghold south of the Litani River and to prevent arms from reaching the guerrillas.