Interview by Philippe BolopionLe Monde
August 2, 2006
The United States demands rapid deployment of a multinational force to Lebanon, while France sees a cease-fire as a necessary prerequisite. What does the UN think?
We don't want to act as a referee. But, for a force to deploy, there must be a stop in the fighting. The Secretary General of the UN continues to demand one, since he sees the immense tragedy that is developing. He sees that it's difficult to tie the threads of a political process while bombs are going off overhead. The international community is very united on the objective: a Lebanese government that wields authority over the entirety of its territory and possesses a monopoly over the use of force. This consensus was the result of concerted work by France and the United States. The question today is how to arrive at that point.
What would you say to those who think that deployment of a force would create the conditions for a political agreement?
I would say to them: "Find that force!" It will be much easier to find troops if there is a stop in the fighting. In the present circumstances, with the continuation of military operations, is anyone approaching a good solution? The risk of civilian casualties, the risk of a real humanitarian catastrophe increases and you risk strengthening politically that which you want to weaken militarily, without any assurance of reaching even that goal.
Are many countries ready to send troops?
Many countries understand that the deployment of an international force will be an important element for putting an end to the hostilities. At the same time, in order for this force to be constituted, countries must know in advance what the scope of its mandate will be. They must know whether it's a mission impossible or a mission in support of the Lebanese government.
How much time would it take to deploy a force to Lebanon? Is the range that has been mentioned - 10,000 to 20,000 men - realistic?
That's in the ballpark. But the key question is to know what will be discussed with the Lebanese government. The size of a force is first of all defined by its duties. The time it takes to deploy depends much on the countries that contribute to it. Under the best assumption, that will take months.
Could such a force force Hezbollah to lay down its arms?
First of all, one must ask realistically what contributors of troops would be ready for such a mandate. It does not fall within a peace-keeping context. In our operations, the disarmament of militia almost always takes place on the basis of political processes, the use of carrots and sticks, in the context of organizing the reintegration of fighters.
How do you think that can be achieved in Lebanon?
Probably, gradually. That's where one must be attentive to the Lebanese. They insist on the political process. They know their country's fragilities. There are risks of breakage. If the military force went in for frontal collisions, the risk of a return of violence between Lebanese would grow. The better the Lebanese political agreement, the greater would be the chances of success. An international force can never impose peace from outside. It comes to support a political process.
What should the force's mandate be?
The force is the element that allows for a consolidation of the cease-fire. Consequently, it is as vital to Israel as to Lebanon. At the heart of its mandate must be support for the Lebanese government. The force must be accepted and perceived by the Lebanese as coming to consolidate their army in the south, so that there is no square yard of Lebanese territory that is not under its government's authority.
Will this force be mandated only by the UN or could we see the dispatch of Blue Helmets?
The response will depend upon those who contribute troops. Some will be happier among the Blue Helmets, which avoids confusion with other operations. Others prefer a multinational force, which is quicker to deploy. Some multinational forces, as in Timor, serve as a relay and are transformed into United Nations forces subsequently.
More Information on Lebanon
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More Information on Israel, Palestine, and the Occupied Territories
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