Italy tells Syria not to send arms to Lebanon

Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D' Alema told Syria on Wednesday that the international community "would not stand by idly" if it endangered a United Nation brokered ceasefire by sending arms to Lebanon.

In an interview with Italian state broadcaster RAI radio, D' Alema said that Premier Romano Prodi had discussed the situation in Lebanon with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a phone conversation on Tuesday.

Syria should know that if it sends arms "the international community will find out and will not idly stand by."

"We ask Syria to cooperate," D'Alema said.

On Tuesday, Italy sent an advance contingent of some 1,000 Italian soldiers to take part in a United Nations' peacekeeping mission, which it will lead from February 2007.

Italy has offered to deploy up to 3,000 soldiers, making it the biggest contingent in the multinational force which will be headed by France till February.

D'Alema said Italy and France have "great relations" and would work together well.

The peacekeeping force will enter southern Lebanon under UN Resolution 1701, which requires the militant group Hezbollah and Israel to end their military operations and obliges Israel to withdraw its troops as soon as the UN troops arrive.

The Resolution, adopted on Aug. 11, calls for an expansion of a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon since 1978 to help some 15,000 Lebanese soldiers enforce the truce, which came into effect on Aug. 14.

The 34-day conflict was triggered by a Hezbollah incursion into Israeli territory on July 12, when guerrillas belonging to the group killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two others.

Some 1,000 Lebanese civilians and more than 115 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed during the fighting.

Source: Xinhua



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