SYDNEY, Australia, AP -France, New Zealand and Italy said Saturday they are ready to send peacekeeping troops to help Lebanon regain control of its south, as governments around the world welcomed a U.N. resolution calling for an end to hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah.
France, which already has some troops in southern Lebanon, will “play a role in putting the new resolution into place, particularly in regards to the new” expanded U.N. force, said President Jacques Chirac.
Italian Premier Romano Prodi also said his country would be willing to contribute troops and wanted to participate in talks to determine the composition and mandate of the force.
China, Russia, Germany, Japan and Australia all praised the resolution, but a majority of Australians said they would not support sending forces to the region, where a month of fighting has left more than 800 people dead, destroyed large amounts of infrastructure, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Drafted by France and the U.S., the resolution calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and authorizes 15,000 U.N. peacekeepers to help Lebanese troops take control of south Lebanon as Israel withdraws.
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said her country is “ready to consider what role we might play in an expanded U.N. presence in southern Lebanon.”
“The onus now lies on the governments of Lebanon and Israel to accept the resolution as the basis for moving forward,” she said.
Turkey also said it was inclined to send peacekeepers.
“If the conditions are met, we will look at the issue very favorably,” Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was quoted as saying by the government-owned Anatolia news agency.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer welcomed the resolution, but said it would not mean an end to the crisis in the Middle East. “This will not occur until the underlying causes of the conflict are resolved,” Downer said.
He later said the government would look at sending a small contingent of specialized troops to bolster U.N. forces, but said Australia “certainly couldn’t provide large numbers of troops.”
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Australia’s largest city, Sydney, on Saturday calling for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon.
In Beijing, the Chinese government said the U.N. resolution was a good foundation for future peace.
“China hopes concerned sides will implement the Security Council resolution in a tangible manner, resume peace and stability in the Middle East region at an early date,” the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Russia, another permanent council member, praised the resolution but emphasized the need to revive the Middle East peace process to prevent further conflict
“One of the urgent tasks in that context is the normalization of (the) situation on the Palestinian territories and the resumption of dialogue between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Japan said it would continue to call on all parties involved in the conflict to realize the cease-fire and agree on a political framework, as stated in the resolution.
The Foreign Ministry said Japan will also contribute to restoring peace and stability in the region, but did not give details.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the resolution and urged Israel and Lebanon to implement it “without delay,” but he did not say if Germany would contribute troops.