|200 Soldiers To Play Role As UNIFIL Administrators
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 20 (Bernama) -- Two hundred Malaysian peacekeeping troops to Lebanon will play the administrative role and the remaining 160 as the patrol team, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak said Wednesday.
He said the 200 Malaysian troops will assist the administrative workload at the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) headquarters in Lebanon.
"The rest (160) as the quick reaction team," he told a press conference at the Defence Ministry.
Najib, who is also Defence Minister said the 360 soldiers as non-combatants will comprise all the defence forces' three elements: the army, navy and air force officers.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had said in New York after talks with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the United Nations had approved the deployment of 360 Malaysian peacekeepers in Lebanon.
Malaysia, the chairman of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), had earlier planned to send 1,000 soldiers to join UNIFIL.
Najib said Abdullah had expressed Malaysia's willingness to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to send more troops in the future upon request by the UN.
He said he did not know how long the peacekeepers would be in Lebanon but added usually a UN mission would take up to three years.
The deputy premier also said he did not know why the UN only approved 360 troops rather than the 1,000 proposed by Malaysia.
"I don't know. We accept what has been approved so far with the hope that we be allowed to send more troops as this mission usually stretches over a long period of time," he said.
Israel had earlier resisted the intention of countries, which had not recognised it to send peacekeepers to Lebanon to oversee a UN-brokered ceasefire following a 34-day conflict between the Israeli government and Hizbollah fighters in southern Lebanon.
Originally, UNIFIL was created by the UN Security Council in 1978 to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore international peace and security and assist the Lebanese government in restoring its effective authority in the area.
Following the July/August 2006 crisis, the Council decided that in addition to the original mandate, UNIFIL would, among other things, monitor the cessation of hostilities; accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy throughout the south of Lebanon; and extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to the civilian population and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons.
When asked when the Malaysian contingent will leave for Lebanon, Najib said the team was awaiting a "written" greenlight from the UN.
"Preparations are at the final stages and the team based from the 4th Mechanised Brigade in Kuantan with all elements are ready at any time," he said.
He said the contingent, which would also include special forces from commandos, navy special force (PASKAL) and air force special force (PASKAU) would be led by an officer with the rank of a Colonel.