Report: France Mulling to Downsize UNIFIL Troops

France is mulling to downsize its troops in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon early next year, informed French sources told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Saturday.

The sources said the reduction in the number of French soldiers from the current 12,000 would come when UNIFIL Commander Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta’s mandate expires.

An Italian is expected to take charge after him.

The French leadership has decided to make the decrease to pave way for the Lebanese army to gradually take more charge of the monitoring of the ceasefire in accordance with Security Council resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, the sources told al-Hayat.

The number of troops that will be withdrawn from UNIFIL is not known yet, they said, stressing that the French move is linked to a U.N. decision on the size of peacekeepers that the world body wants to keep in southern Lebanon.

A French U.N. patrol was attacked on July 26 and Italian peacekeepers were targeted on May 27.

In August, the Security Council strongly condemned attacks on U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon as it renewed the key force's mandate for another year.

Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved.