Iran TerrorismChirac backs peacekeepers for Lebanon, rebukes Iran and Syria

Chirac backs peacekeepers for Lebanon, rebukes Iran and Syria

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AFP: French President Jacques Chirac backed an international peacekeeping force for Lebanon on Wednesday and took a swipe at Iran and Syria, which he accused of stirring unrest in the Middle East. PARIS, July 26, 2006 (AFP) – French President Jacques Chirac backed an international peacekeeping force for Lebanon on Wednesday and took a swipe at Iran and Syria, which he accused of stirring unrest in the Middle East.

In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, he detailed his strategy to bring an end to the Israel-Lebanon conflict, but key elements showed a split between the French and US positions.

Chirac dismissed the idea of using NATO forces as international peacekeepers in the area and proposed sending a multinational force to patrol both the Israeli-Lebanese and Syrian-Lebanese borders.

“For France, NATO has no place in setting up such a force,” he said, adding that NATO was perceived “whether we like it or not, as the armed wing of the West in the region”.

He also said a political agreement between Israel and Lebanon had to be achieved before international troops could be committed to the region.

The United States, Chirac said, was in favour of deploying NATO reaction forces as quickly as possible. Israel has also voiced support for a NATO solution.

The comments came as a 15-nation crisis conference in Rome, aimed at ending the bloodshed in Lebanon, was deadlocked over the timing of a ceasefire to end the hostilities.

In further comments, Chirac said he held the Iran partially responsible for the confict and branded the Syrian regime as “at odds” with security and peace.

He also suggested Iran and Syria were pulling strings behind the scenes and had encouraged Hezbollah and Hamas to abduct Israeli soldiers, the spark for the conflict which has killed more than 400 Lebanese citizens in two weeks.

“In the current conflict, Iran is partially responsible. Information we have proves that sophisticated weapons and financing are sent by Iran, via Syria in all probability, to Hezbollah. It’s a problem,” he told the newspaper.

After talks broke down with Syria, Chirac said he realised that “the regime embodied by (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad seemed to me to be at odds with security and peace.”

In a reference to the abduction of Israeli soldiers by Hamas and Hezbollah, Chirac spoke of his “feeling” that “Hamas as well as Hezbollah did not take these irresponsible initiatives simply of their own accord”.

France has a three-pronged strategy to end the conflict, Chirac said: “a ceasefire, then a political commitment, and from then on, a multinational force on the ground.”

The mission of a peacekeeping force “would be to control the ceasefire and assure the respect of the borders, both the Israeli-Lebanese border and Syrian-Lebanese border of course,” Chirac told the newspaper.

Sending troops is contingent on “a political agreement that assumes a ceasefire”. The agreement “must be negotiated partly by the Lebanese government and Hezbollah and partly between the international community, the Lebanese government and Israel.”

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