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France ready to send 1,600 more troops to Lebanon

Written by: Staff
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PARIS, Aug 24 (Reuters) France is ready to send an extra 1,600 troops to bolster a revamped United Nations force for Lebanon, President Jacques Chirac said today, bringing the total French contingent to 2,000.

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

However, France decided to dispatch many more troops after winning assurances from the UN 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 today.

The United Nations has some 2,000 soldiers in Lebanon and wants to raise this number to up to 15,000 to police a shaky ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hizbollah guerrillas.

REUTERS PB BST0004

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