Thursday, August 24, 2006

France Steps Up

France steps up. As I read it, all it took was a little shame, a little assurance, and a lot of desire not to see the Italians take the lead.

BEIRUT (Reuters) - France said on Thursday it was ready to send an extra 1,600 troops to bolster a revamped U.N. force for Lebanon, bringing the total French contingent to 2,000 and making it easier to recruit other nations.

France initially offered only to double its force in Lebanon to 400, disappointing many U.N. diplomats who had expected Paris to provide the backbone of the mission.

However, President Jacques Chirac said France decided to dispatch many more troops after winning assurances from the United Nations that the troops would be able to defend themselves fully if they came under attack and could use force to protect civilians.

"Two thousand French troops will thus be placed under the United Nations in Lebanon. France is ready, if the United Nations wishes, to continue commanding this force," Chirac said in a televised address.

Italy, which had promised 2,000 to 3,000 troops, earlier said it had won U.S. blessing for its leadership of the force and that it was confident Europe, especially France, would firm up its so far limited military commitment.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi said President George W. Bush had told him by telephone of his "positive" view of Italy's offer to lead the force. He added Bush was also leaning on allies to offer troops.

The Bush administration later welcomed Chirac's offer.

I think this is great news, and I'm personally glad France lived up to my good opinion of her.

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