Linked with Samir Makdisi – Lebanon.
(AP-Naharnet Homepage) Beirut, Oct. 11, 2006 – Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi gave his moral support to war-ravaged Lebanon on Wednesday, saying the country’s stability was key to that of the Middle East. Prodi, who arrived in Lebanon late Tuesday, held separate talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on the U.N. peacekeeping operation in south Lebanon, to which Italy is the leading contributor nation. … // … “The stability of Lebanon is the instrument toward stability of the area,” Prodi told reporters after his talks with Saniora. Prodi pledged to secure a prisoners’ swap with Israel. … // … Secretary General Kofi Annan has appointed a secret envoy to negotiate the release of the Israeli soldiers, which is required under the U.N. cease-fire resolution. … // … Italy, Lebanon’s number-one trading partners, has “several ideas on how to participate in the early recovery of Lebanon,” Saniora said. … // … Saniora expressed appreciation for what he called Italy’s “strong participation” in the U.N. operation. Italy is contributing 2,500 troops to the U.N.’s expanded peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, assembled under the U.N. Security Council resolution that ended the conflict between Israel and Hizbullah.
About 1,000 Italian troops already have been deployed in a coastal area from the Israeli border to the Litani River, about 30 kilometers north of the border. … // … Prodi flew to the Italian contingent’s base at Tibnine, 15 kilometers (10 miles) north of the Israel border, where he was briefed by officers He was to return to Beirut and call on an Italian warship anchored there before departing for Italy in the evening. Under the U.N. resolution, 15,000 Lebanese troops are to control southern Lebanon along with an equal number of U.N. peacekeepers. The U.N. force currently numbers 5,200. The aim is to maintain a weapons-free zone from the border to the Litani. (Read the whole article on AP-Naharnet-AFP).